How to Make Sure Your Vegan Diet Is As Healthy As You Think

A vegan diet can be great for your health and wellbeing if it’s done in the right way.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into certain traps that make it a lot less healthy than you might think.

Here are some tips to make sure that following a vegan diet really does make you healthier!

The Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Some of the many health benefits that a vegan diet can encourage include:

  • Having more energy

  • Healthier skin, hair and nails

  • Better cardiovascular health including lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating less saturated fat (due to the lack of meat and dairy)

  • Lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

  • Eating more fiber, which is great for better digestive health

  • Eating good sources of nutrients that are often lacking in non vegan diets including iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and plenty of antioxidants

  • Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

  • Lower risk of some cancers, including breast,prostate and colon cancers

  • Lower risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration as you get older

  • Lower risk of developing osteoporosis

Potential Pitfalls of a Vegan Diet

There are a few things that can go wrong with a vegan diet so it’s important not to make these kind of mistakes when you go vegan:

Too much fat: Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet won’t lower your fat intake (and bring cardiovascular benefits) if you replace them with lots of high fat alternatives such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil and nut milks. These are all great in moderation but they add up to a lot of fat if they’re making up a large part of your diet. Some people find that they actually eat more fat on this type of vegan diet than when they were eating meat and dairy so it’s definitely something to keep a check on.

Not getting a balanced diet: If you’re not eating milk and dairy, it’s really important to make sure that you’re getting vital nutrients such as iron and calcium from plant based sources instead. This can protect against deficiencies and makes sure that your vegan diet is really having the benefits you think. Vitamin B12 is another area to focus on as it’s mostly found in animal sources and can be very lacking in a vegan diet. You may want to look at foods that are fortified with B12 (such as breakfast cereals) to make sure that you get enough of it.

Assuming that all ‘vegan’ foods are healthy: There are lots of vegan options on the market now and unfortunately not all of them are all that healthy. Sticking to unprocessed, wholesome food will help you to get balanced nutrition and will bring a lot more of the health benefits associated with a truly vegan diet.

Making Sure Your Vegan Diet is Really Healthy

How can you avoid making some of these common mistakes? These tips should help you to get the biggest benefits from a vegan diet!

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

You can’t go too far wrong if fruit and vegetables makes up a big percentage of your vegan diet!

Aim for up to 75% and pad this out with things like legumes (such as beans and pulses), potato, whole grains and some healthy fats.

Ideally, healthy fats should be up to 10% of your vegan diet, which works out at around a handful of nuts or a third of an avocado.

Vegan Iron Sources

Non vegans can get iron from their meat intake but for vegans, it’s really important to eat the right foods to avoid iron deficiency anemia – especially for women.

Some good vegan sources of iron include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Raisins

  • Prunes

  • Blackstrap molasses

  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and cooked green beets

  • Spirulina

  • Tofu

  • Quinoa

  • Kidney beans

  • Cashew nuts

  • Almonds

  • Sesame seeds

Vegan Calcium Sources

Calcium can come from some surprising sources in a vegan diet so it’s not too difficult to get enough of this nutrient. For example, dark leafy greens are a good source of calcium, especially kale and broccoli.

Other options include:

  • Dried apricots

  • Blackberries

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Prunes

  • Oranges

  • Orange juice

  • Sesame seeds

  • Pulses

Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

Vegans can easily become deficient in vitamin B12 as it’s largely found in animal sources and isn’t readily available in a plant based diet.

Vitamin B12 is added to quite a few fortified foods these days, including cereals, vegan spreads and some non dairy milks such as soy milk.

Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

A vegan diet can be deficient in vitamin D, especially if you aren’t getting much of this nutrient from exposure to sunlight.

This is another area where fortified vegan products are a good idea as vitamin D often comes from animal sources such as dairy.

Vegan sources of vitamin D can include fortified vegan spreads, fortified cereals and even soy drinks.

Vegan Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep your heart healthy and is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

The jury is still out on whether omega-3 fatty acids from plant based sources offer the same cardiovascular benefits as those from fatty fish but as part of a healthy diet, they can still play a key role when it comes to heart health.

Vegan sources include:

  • Walnuts

  • Soya based foods such as tofu

  • Flaxseed and rapeseed oil (in small quantities)

A vegan diet can be incredibly healthy and protect against a number of diseases and conditions but it does require a bit of planning to make sure that you don’t become deficient in key nutrients. Once you get it right, there are so many benefits to a vegan diet!

 

How to Treat 6 Common Skin Complaints

How to Treat 6 Common Skin Complaints

If you regularly curse your ‘problem’ skin and wish you were lucky enough to have a glowing, flawless complexion, you’re definitely not alone!

Far from being something that we leave behind in our teenage years, ‘problem’ skin is a common frustration for a lot of adults too and can cause a lot of distress and anxiety.

Here’s what you need to know about 6 common types of skin issues and what you can do to treat them, including blackheads, acne, pigmentation, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.

Blackheads

Blackheads are tiny black bumps on your skin that form when oil and dead skin cells clog together in your pores and interact with oxygen. This is what causes them to be black – it’s not dirt, as people assume!

It’s always tempting to try to squeeze blackheads to get rid of them but you can damage the skin by doing this. If you can’t resist, it’s a good idea to open the pores up through steaming first so that there is less potential for problems.

While its true that blackheads are not caused by dirt, a good cleansing routine can help to prevent them by keeping your pores relatively clean so they don’t clog as easily. Cleansing once often isn’t enough and will only get rid of excess oil and make up whereas a second cleanse can go a bit deeper.

Acne

We often think of acne as being a facial problem but it can also affect the neck, chest, back and shoulders.

As well as the obvious red pus-filled bumps, acne can also come in the form of whiteheads, blackheads and bumps that form under the surface.

There can be a few different reasons why acne develops and the underlying factor plays a big role in how it is treated. This is why it can be important to look at the bigger picture rather than just looking to treat the acne itself.

Diet can sometimes play a part, and stress is another potential factor that can make acne worse.

Products that are targeted at spot prone skin can actually make acne worse if they strip the skin of vital moisture. This can encourage your skin to go into overdrive and produce more oils, which makes the situation even worse.

A gentle skin care regime that doesn’t dry out your skin can be a much better bet for acne prone skin.

Pigmentation

If you have pigmentation, you’ll have dark patches of skin that are usually uneven. This happens when the skin cells that create melanin start to produce more pigment.

There can be hormonal factors involved (for example, during pregnancy or if you’re taking oral contraceptives) and other potential causes include sun damage and post inflammation pigmentation (which can occur after an injury or sun damage and can also be linked to acne and rosacea).

You can minimise your potential for pigmentation with a good sunscreen, which can protect against sun damage.

Pigmentation peels can be useful for treating pigmentation and making it less likely to come back again.

Rosacea

Rosacea causes facial flushing which can be quite severe. It is a vascular condition that encourages blood vessels in the face to swell and this is what causes the redness associated with rosacea.

The redness can be exaggerated if you get too hot or too cold, if you eat spicy foods or drink alcohol so many people with rosacea avoid these factors. Stress can also make the condition worse.

Eczema

If you have eczema, your skin will be dry, red and itchy and prone to rashes in the affected areas. It’s common on the elbows and knees but can also occur on other parts of the body, including the face.

Eczema symptoms can come and go and can be linked to certain triggers. Some people find that it gets worse when they’re stressed, when they’re in environments that dry out the skin, when they wear ‘scratchy’ clothes or if their skin comes into contact with relatively harsh soaps or cleaning products, for example.

Mild toiletries that don’t contain lots of fragrance, colour and chemicals can reduce potential for eczema flare-ups that are linked to products that irritate the skin. You may also want to avoid using fabric softeners and harsh laundry products as these are also eczema triggers for some people.

When flare-ups happen, hydrocortisone creams can help to take the fire out of the itch and settle your skin down again.

If you’d rather go down the natural route, adding some oats to your bath water can help to relieve itching. Just make sure the water isn’t too hot as this can dry your skin and make eczema symptoms worse.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is usually characterised by red skin and silvery-white patches of dry, flaky, scaly skin. It’s caused by the skin cells turning over far more quickly than normal, which can lead to a build up of ‘scales’ on the skin.

As with eczema, psoriasis symptoms can come and go. Stress, cold temperatures and certain foods can be potential triggers for psoriasis in some people.

Keeping your skin well moisurised is key as the symptoms get worse when your skin is very dry

Eating more “good” fats in your diet can help to reduce inflammation, including oily fish, nuts and seeds.

.

 

 

 

What Causes a Dry, Flaky Scalp? (& How to Get Rid of It!)

What Causes a Dry, Flaky Scalp_

Are you desperate to find a way to treat a dry, flaky scalp?

Dandruff occurs when the skin cells on your scalp turn over and renew themselves a lot more quickly than normal. This encourages them to flake off from your scalp.

This can hugely embarrassing, especially if those dreaded white flakes are obvious in your hair or on your clothes.

Anti dandruff shampoos are often the first port of call when you’re looking to treat a dry, flaky scalp but they can actually make dandruff worse for some people.

This is because it can be caused by a number of different conditions that affect the scalp, including dry scalp, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

If any of these are the root cause of your dandruff, medicated shampoos can dry out your scalp even more and cause a vicious cycle that makes the situation worse.

Treatment varies depending on the cause of your dandruff so knowing what is really behind it is really important for treating it.

A Myth About Dandruff

Dandruff isn’t caused by not washing your hair often enough. In fact, many people with dandruff actually wash their hair too often and this exaggerates it.

Dry Scalp

A lot of hair care products contain harsh chemicals, notably Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. These can dry out your scalp and irritate it.

If your dandruff is caused by particular conditions (such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis), these type of chemicals can make it worse because of the drying effect.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis encourages skin cells to turn over very quickly and the process can take just days, rather than weeks. This causes a dry, flaky scalp that can be very red and itchy, and the build up of white or grey scales on top of this. It can also affect other parts of the body.

Treatment tends to involve topical shampoos and lotions that are designed to break down scales so they can be removed more easily. Coal tar shampoos are often prescribed and work to soften stubborn scales.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrehic dermatitis is linked to a yeast overgrowth on the scalp. This can lead to symptoms such as a red, itchy, flaky scalp.

For some people, the areas affected may also weep. Because it tends to affect oily areas, the skin that flakes off can often appear greasy.

As well as the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oilier areas on the face such as around the nose.

Treatment is based around reducing the amount of yeast on the scalp. Specialist shampoos and creams are a common part of this and can usually be used in the long term without any adverse effects.

Natural Tips for Treating a Dry Scalp

What if you’d prefer not to use topical treatments on your scalp?

There are a few natural options you can turn to for some relief from dandruff.

  • Chemical free hair products can limit extra dryness on your scalp, especially ones that are designed with dry scalps in mind.
  • Coconut oil and olive oil can have the same effect as medicated shampoos in loosening stubborn scales.
  • Hair masques containing honey and oat can ease a dry scalp.

5 Reasons to Love Chia Seeds

5 Reasons to Love Chia Seeds.png

Chia seeds may be tiny but they really make a punch when it comes to their health benefits!

Chia seeds were highly valued by the Aztecs and the Mayans, mostly because of the energy boost they provided. Even their name bears testament to this as “chia” means “strength” in ancient Mayan.

This is just one of the reasons why they’re now considered a health superfood, and here are 5 more great health benefits of chia seeds:

They’re Full of Nutrients

Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, despite their tiny size. A 28g serving gives you over 10g of fibre, 4g of protein, 18% of your RDA of calcium, 30% of your RDA of manganese and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

All of this in what basically amounts to a couple of tablespoons!

They’re Packed With Antioxidants

Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which help to protect cells against the damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are linked to a whole range of diseases and conditions, including cancer.

They’re Great for Bone Health

Chia seeds are highly nutritious and this means that they contain a lot of key minerals – including calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

These are all vital for keeping your bones healthy.

Just a couple of teaspoons of chia seeds gives you almost 20% of your recommended calcium intake, and this is higher than dairy products.

If you don’t eat dairy, chia seeds can be an easy way to make sure that you’re getting calcium in your diet.

They’re Great for Heart Health

Studies have shown that chia seeds have great potential for reducing blood pressure, keeping cholesterol in check and fighting inflammation.

All of this makes these little seeds a great choice for improving your heart health.

As an added bonus, eating chia seeds can also reduce oxidative stress. This makes you less likely to develop atherosclerosis, a condition in which the blood vessels stiffen and over time, the artery walls harden. It affects how well blood can flow around the body and can be a big factor in heart attacks, strokes and even organ failure that happens out of the blue.

They Can Fight Some Cancers

Chia seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids, especially a type called Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA).

One study in particular has suggested that ALA has the ability to fight breast cancer and cervical cancer and stop these cells from growing further. This was highlighted by a 2013 study published in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry.

The really significant thing here is that ALA seems to kill cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

How to Use Chia Seeds

how to use chia seeds

Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and can be added to smoothies, soups and porridge, sprinkled over salads or used in baking.

They don’t have a strong taste and are actually quite bland in this respect. This makes them perfect for adding to lots of different things!