Denmark’s fat tax! I l love it! But let’s pick on thin and lazy people also.

9 Oct

Fat people are more obviously unhealthy than thin people but both cost the NHS. We need a tax on unhealthy food in general, not just saturated fats. Thank you NZ Sunday Mercury for this pic, which raises lots of other questions...

I think a fat\health tax is great but sadly totally flawed. I’d call it a health tax, tax refined carbs and dramatically lighten up the costs of ‘healthier’ foods.  My belief is that the masses, including both skinny and fat people, know that a KCF/Maccy D/Burger King/Taco Bell/Red Rooster/etc burger/fries is bad for them, but because it tastes good, it fills you up and it’s cheap, health doesn’t get a look in.  

The figures are widely varied but recently, the Independent newspaper blog suggested that ‘fat’ people cost the UK £4.2bn’ in obesity related illnesses. However in a 2008 story in The Grocer, this figure is more like £6.8bn and it’s not just fat people who are chronically unhealthy, thin people are also a drag on the system costing the NHS even more at £7.3bn a year.

I pay £2.99 for a raw chocolate bar that perks me up and gives me essential minerals and vitamins when I could pay for 35p for an average chocolate bar that also does the job of perking me up but only for a moment and at a cost to my liver, gut, brain and adrenal system.  When times are tough, and I need a snack – there is no way I can afford to choose ‘healthy’.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive and they don’t last for months in my grocery cupboard, making bulk buying difficult. Raising the price of naughty food will certainly make me (average person) think twice, but the only way this will really work to cut costs to the NHS is if the price of health foods is also slashed.

While it is a worry that Cameron is proposing a tax only on saturated fats, it is a step in the right direction. Breaking habits of lifetimes is hard and people don’t like change, but when it comes to money – maybe we have hope that the message will get through to the people who need it whether they are smart, thin, fat, stupid, poor or rich.

We are what we eat and it’s as simple as that!

Advertisements

796* raw foodists in Czech Republic

25 Sep

Fried cheese is the closest thing to raw food in Czech Republic

I was in beautiful Prague for work last week, which sounds exciting but sadly I had just the one opportunity to leave the office, eat out and test a typical Czech restaurant menu for ‘raw food’. The menu at this particular beer-based ‘restaurant’ was more of a manual of ‘how to eat meat with meat with beer and a side plate of meaty meat’.  

From pig knees to venison goulash, foie gras, duck liver terrine and steak tartare, and every other cut, animal, cooking variation, body part and flavour option accounted for, I was tempted to leave an alkaline diet leaflet and list of meat-related diseases on the table.

But – it was a wonderful thing to see that even a cursory attempt had been made to cater for the vegetarians among us.  However, the only vegie options were fried cheese, fried Camembert cheese, omelette and a depressed risotto, hence a raw food option was a total no go and I began to realise that a raw foodist in Czech Republic would more likely be found performing in a travelling freak show than an average eatery.

Expecting absolutely nothing, on researching ‘raw food in Czech Republic’, I was pleasantly surprised to find the statistic on raw-food-health.net that 1.5% of Czech people are considered vegetarian.  * Imagining the proportion of vegetarians who could be considered ‘raw’ to be a mere 0.5% – that leaves the potential figure of raw foodies at 786 people out of a population of 10.5 million.

Raw food health.net refers to the 2008, “Vegetarianism in America” study published by the Vegetarian Times Magazine, that puts the number of U.S. adult vegetarians at 7.3 million, or 3.2 percent of the population.

In England, vegetarianism got a huge boost from the mad cow scare. According to a 2006 Mintel survey, 6 percent of the population, or 3.6 million people, are vegetarians, and 10 percent eat no red meat. This likely makes the UK the european country with the largest proportion of its population that is vegetarian.

Across the rest of Europe, statistics are less positive:

Austria: 243,000 – 3%
Belgium: 204,000 – 2%
Croatia: 166,500 – 3.7%
Czech Republic: 153,000 – 1.5%
Denmark: 81,000 – 1.5%
France: >1,200,000 – >2%
The Netherlands: 700,900 – 4.3%
Norway: 92,000 – 2%
Poland: >386,000 – >1%
Portugal: 30,000 – 0.3%

Surprisingly, Czech Republic does not have the lowest stat in Europe, which leads me to think that there are a lot fried cheese fans out there. I did try it, but can’t say I recommend it as a lifestyle choice and frankly, I’d rather eat the pig knee too.

By the way, Happy World Vegetarian Day for Oct 1.

A raw beetroot salad recipe to prevent cancer and regenerate your liver

11 Sep

Raw beetroot salad with raw tahini dressing. It's addictive.

Beetroots are in season here in autumnal UK and seeing them in abundance at the markets and even in the aisles Tesco, makes my heart sing and liver jump for joy.  Sharing the top spot of my favourite vege with broccoli, beetroot is not only delicious but it also happens to be exceptionally good for you with scientific evidence that it regenerates the liver and prevents cancer.  

The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Howard University, Washington, DC is quoted on alternative-cancer-care.com as saying: ‘Our previous studies identified the extract of Beta vulgaris (beetroot), commercially also known as betanin, as a potent cancer chemopreventive agent. An in vivo anti-tumor promoting activity evaluation against the mice skin and lung bioassays revealed a significant tumor inhibitory effect. The combined findings suggest that beetroot ingestion can be one of the useful means to prevent cancer.’

PSC Trust says that, ‘Beetroot is probably the single most important liver food. The red pigment (called anthocyanin) and beetroot enzymes (called peroxidases) help to re-energise tired cells – especially liver cells. The liver is the major organ of detoxification, working to filter and detoxify the debris and toxins which accumulate in the body. Beetroot juice also contains large quantities of betaine and choline (which assist fat metabolism), with silicic acids, trace minerals, potassium, magnesium and the B-vitamins, Vitamin B6, B12 and folate.’ 

INGREDIENTS

1 large beetroot
rocket leaves
1green apple or a pear
7 walnuts
1 tbsp tahini paste
good dash apple cider vinegar
olive oil

RECIPE (for one)

Grate your beetroot (carefully) and finely slice your green apple or pear. Throw in a salad bowl and mix in rocket leaves and walnuts.

To make the dressing- stir the tahini, apple cider vinegar and olive oil together until saucy.  I usually need to add some water to make it runnier…

And eat up…

PREPARATION NOTE: If a CSI unit popped into my kitchen right now – their first pre-forensic thought would be that a massacre had taken place. Somehow when I grated just a single beetroot, my kitchen is now a crime scene and with beetroot bloodied hands, I am the chief suspect.  I’m sure when you make it – it won’t be such a domestic disaster…

‘finger lickin good’ no more?? KFC goes ‘so good’

5 Sep

finger lickin good no more?? KFC goes 'so good'.

This month in the UK we wait with bated breath to see the new healthier, more nutritionally transparent menu from KFC.  I  see it now.  Raw cashew nut replacement chicken buckets, raw mock chicken fillet burgers….Oh what a raw dream.

Perhaps my sarcasm is misplaced because already, earlier this year, KFC did the unthinkable and ditched their 60+ year old tagline ‘finger lickin good’ for ‘so good.’  An altruistic passion for our nutritional welfare? Perhaps not. Falling sales and increased demand for healthier food options are behind their decision and more importantly for us shallow consumers, KFC understands our desire to be seen  to be ‘making a good brand choice.’  This is exciting (to me anyway…) and reveals the tide of interest from a mass audience for food of nutritional value despite the fact that in the UK alone, KFC sells a chicken hotwing every 3.6 seconds amounting to 114m a year.  Checking their statistics (as you do…) I see in comparison they sell only 3.3m pots of beans, 2.3m tubs of coleslaw and 7.8 million corn cobs each year.  It’ll be interesting to see whether we start to ditch chicken wings for corn cobs in our zest for something ‘more gooder’ but in the mean time I like that we, the masses, are trying to be healthier and therefore using our power to push big food brands in the right direction.

As softpedia.com reports:  KFC is out to prove that it’s also about food and not just excellent taste, so it’s switching up some things in UK restaurants like bringing new cooking oils, introducing new foods that are healthier options to the current offering and sourcing the chicken from the UK.  

The rebranding exercise will coincide with the introduction of healthier frying oils and meals cooked on a griddle instead of in a frier. There are also plans to show the calorie content of all items on KFC’s menus from September,” says the same publication (The Daily Mail).

KFC is known in the trade as a QSR (quick service restaurant) so it was a big surprise to find any reference to raw food on trade website qsrweb.com.  Here my new guru, Betsy Craig, writes the blog Raw explained: Tips and tricks for offering raw dishes on your menu in August this year.

As she concludes; As more Americans focus on including healthy, fresh vegetables and fruits in every meal, there is more and more interest in making those nutrient dense meals the meal in itself.  Offering a raw menu item or two at your restaurant will help you to best serve this growing demographic. Be sure to include full nutritional information on the menu for this group and all your menu items.

Isn’t Betsy fabulous?  Perhaps KFC’s next evolutionary brand step will be ‘so raw.’ I might write to them and suggest it in case they missed her article…

Raw chocolate porridge is a kickstart that lasts the day

24 Aug

Raw chocolate porridge beats coco pops for taste and nutrition - despite how it looks...

Other than my green smoothies, my new raw addiction is raw chocolate porridge. It’s easy, quick, highly nutritious and tastes even better than a block of Belgian chocolate. Surely I don’t need to tell you that its a life-changing low GI start to the day. 

1 cup rolled oats
1 heaped tbspn raw cacao powder
handful of mixed nuts
1 tspn linseeds/flaxseeds
1 tbspn of sunflower seeds
1 tbspn of pumpkin seeds
1 squirt of of honey if you have a sweet tooth
rice milk/coconut water

Cover the rolled oats and linseeds with rice milk/coconut water and let it sit (overnight or min 30mins min) until it all soaks in.  If I’m in a rush in the mornings (as is usual) – I soak the oats on my way into the shower.  Then top with nuts and seeds. I also add coconut shavings when I’m feeling adventurous…

raw restaurant review: SAF Wholefoods Kensington

14 Aug

My birthday SAF special raw cashew nut cheese au poivre pour moi

I am very, very lucky. My birthday celebrations have stretched for over four months and my lovely super dooper generous friend Gabrielle decided to humour me with a birthday lunch treat of my choice. Following my fast I naturally gravitated to a raw option and since SAF has opened up in Wholefoods only 10mins away – it was a no brainer.

SAF’s menu is not 100% raw but it is 100% natural, gluten free and healthy and because Gabs is not only Italian but also, like everyone I know and love, as raw as a traditional cheesey meaty pasta lasagne, we were both cleverly and well catered for.

I hate to criticise any raw endeavour but I was a tad disappointed that quite few menu options were not available and as we were the only ones in the restaurant, the atmosphere was, well, let’s say, not as great as its mother restaurant in Old Street.

While Gabs tucked into the bulgar wheat wrap, I chose a SAF raw cheese signature dish of Pesto Au Poivre;  a sage pesto sandwiched between two layers of cashew cheese with pink peppercorn and chive crust served with dehydrated flaxseed and balsamic reduction.

It was delicious and incredible to believe that it was made of raw cashew nuts…I’ve just ordered the muslin online – so will try making it for myself any day now…Thank you Gab!

Wall St Journal: Raw-Food Movement Pushes Deeper Into New York City

8 Aug

image of Rawvolution co-owner Janabai Amsden in the East Village by Noah Rabinowitz for The Wall Street Journal

I’ve seen a huge rise in hits on my blog in the last six months so am therefore well aware of the raw food revolution’s rise in momentum worldwide. Sumathi Reddy writes this great piece about the very wave of raw food love washing across the US in the Wall St Journal on Monday 1 August 2011.

There will be no oven when Rawvolution opens Monday in the East Village. No stove, either.

“Nobody gets burned here,” said Janabai Amsden, who founded the Santa Monica-based restaurant with her husband. “We try not to ever make anything over 110 degrees.”

Rawvolution is one of a small group of restaurants that once catered to a niche population: the raw food community. But such restaurants and juice bars—which often also sell raw food and juice cleanse packages—increasingly find themselves gaining the attention of a more mainstream crowd.

“Our clientele has definitely changed a lot,” said Sarma Melngailis, chief executive officer of One Lucky Duck and co-founder of Pure Food and Wine, a raw-food, vegan restaurant that was among the first in New York. “Certainly more and more people know about it and people are getting in to juice cleanses and that kind of thing.”

Raw food is defined as food that is uncooked and unprocessed and is usually vegan. Most practitioners and restaurants define uncooked as prepared at less than 118 degrees. Dehydrators are used to make bread. Juice is usually made with a hydraulic juice presser. Advocates believe that such food methods preserve more nutrients and enzymes than more traditional methods.

Rawvolution will be a smaller version of the California outpost, with a grab-and-go menu. And of course there will be juices, like a “green juice” of cucumber, celery, parsley, ginger lemon and kale.

Natural-juice cafes are becoming especially prolific, popping up everywhere from the Bronx to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn.

Denise Mari, founder of Organic Avenue, which has four stores in Manhattan and one in the Hamptons, said its juices have soared in popularity and probably make up more in sales than its menu of raw food. The company is in the process of opening four more stores in the fall.

The company also has a variety of cleansing programs. And it’s not just celebrities that are slurping them up.

“There’s such a thirst for the juice,” said Ms. Mari. “I think it’s like just everyone who needs to be healthier is getting turned on to drink a green juice.”

Some nutritionists warn that a strictly raw-food and juice diet is not entirely healthy.

Lisa Sasson, a clinical assistant professor at the New York University Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, said the premise that raw food contains more enzymes is faulty because our bodies make enzymes that break food down. Also, she said getting all the food groups you need on such a diet can lead to deficiencies in iron, calcium, Vitamin D and B12.

“Unless people are very conscientious they can have some deficiencies with the raw-food diet,” she said. “It is a very difficult diet.”

As for green juices, Ms. Sasson said there’s nothing wrong with having one for breakfast or as a snack. But she said there is no research that supports the idea that juice cleanses clean the colon.

But advocates tout the benefits of the diet, which they say makes people feel more energetic and healthier.

“I like eating raw because it makes you feel like you’re really investing in your body and you’re taking care of it,” said Dana Levy, a Manhattan artist who began eating raw about two and a half years ago but has taken breaks.

“It made me feel like I went from riding a bike to driving a Ferrari,” she said of when she first started eating raw. “My body was just so focused and I felt very energized.”

Raw-food restaurants are still mostly centered in the East Village, though there are exceptions, such as Rockin’ Raw in Williamsburg, which opened two years ago and whose coffee is even made from a cold press (coffee grinds are put into a cheese cloth with water and sit out in the sun).

Doug Green, owner of the East Village’s Liquiteria, said that when he opened in 1996 he served both raw food and juices but found there was little appetite for the food. So he switched gears and focused on the juices. He estimates that sales have been growing about 20% a year.

Have to comment on Dog Green’s name…Could it be more apt? Did he make it up? Should I change my name to Susie Sprout?

“Today this generation of Baby Boomers and younger are just changing the meat and potatoes for the juice and the kale salad,” he said. “We have everybody from sanitation workers coming every morning to police officers to hedge-fund and private-equity guys.”

Mr. Green said the restaurant intends to launch a new menu next year and will return to its roots with a raw-food section. “Basically what we’re relaunching is what we had in 1996 but we’re launching it in 2012,” he said.

Mr. Green said he now expects consumers to have more of an appetite.

How to go raw: my raw cupboard essentials

30 Jul

Green leaves and sprouts are king and queen of my raw cupboard.

By some strange quirk in the universe lots of people have recently asked me what they need to buy to make ‘going raw’ as easy as possible. It is strangely harder than I thought to find a list online so here are some of the raw basics I have in my cupboard at all times. I should add that these are by no means complete – there are always new things to try and seasonal specials that bring my raw heart back from the dark cooked side.

The obvious essentials

  1. Green leaves – baby spinach is a staple, any lettuce and watercress
  2. Seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, linseed, sesame
  3. Vegetables – zucchini is a must, carrots, red onions, beetroot,and broccoli
  4. Sprouts – I grow my own alfalfa
  5. Fruit – apples, lemons, limes, cucumber, tomatoes (including sundried)
  6. Nuts – almonds, walnuts always
  7. Dried fruit – dates, prunes, raisins
  8. Avocado – I know it’s a fruit but I think it deserves its own spot
  9. Chilli
  10. Garlic
  11. Ginger

Less obvious essentials

  1. Coconut water
  2. Honey
  3. Agave syrup
  4. Raw cacao powder
  5. Tahini
  6. Apple cider vinegar
  7. Coconut oil/butter
  8. Quinoa
  9. Oats
  10. Chick peas

Essential spices

  1. Cinnamon – I have it with just about everything
  2. Cumin
  3. Turmeric
  4. Sea salt
  5. Cayenne pepper
  6. Cracked black pepper
  7. Chilli flakes
Essential herbs
  1. Basil – I grow it on my window sill
  2. Coriander
  3. Parsley
  4. Mint
Essential supplements

  1. Probiotics
  2. Digestive enzymes -to help me digest something more complex
  3. Zinc -if I feel my immune system needs a hand
  4. Cod liver oil
  5. Psyllium husk – if my digestive tract feels sluggish
  6. Chlorella (blue green algae) – good for city dwellers and deep fish eaters – for detoxing heavy metals

Essential equipment

  1. Blender
  2. Sprouter
  3. Dehydrator – I wrote this here but I don’t have one yet – although I am saving for the 9 tray excalibur deluxe…

Other non-raw  raw essentials

  1. Rice paper sheets
  2. Nori roll seaweed paper
  3. Black strap molasses
  4. Teas – oolong (like nice tasting green tea),  dandelion (liver/gall bladder/water retention)

Raw Thai street food

25 Jul

pawpaw, cucumber, pineapples and just about everything else in a raw street food vendor's cart

It’s easy to be raw on the streets of Bangkok. Mashed against and tangled between walls and curbs of both the tiniest windiest alleyways and the most overwhelming motorways are its many raw street food vendors.

If you can turn your head away from the deep frying chicken, tripe, insects and fish balls, amongst the other unidentifiable goodies, the wide variety of tenderly prepared fruits and vegetables is a delicious temptation for the most hardcore carnivores among us.

Please excuse the layout of the pics – I haven’t mastered it!

Raw food restaurant review: Rasayana

17 Jul

My raw cabbage rolls at Rasayana were rock and roll

My friend San Bao, of tea ceremony fame in Koh Samui, raved about the Bangkok raw food restaurant Rasayana to me two years ago. This year I finally have a few extra days up my sleeve so decided to stop by Bangkok for a raw lunch.

I decided to walk and arrive via a motorway, main road, small arterial road and find the restaurant twenty metres up a private and unnervingly security patrolled lane. The location is obscure so I’m amazed if anyone else ever just wonders in like I’ve done. The first thing I notice is that Rasayana is not just a restaurant but a whole and beautifully calm palm-treed sanctuary in the middle of stinking Bangkok megacity. I almost forget that I nearly died crossing the motorway and sit down at a traditional wooden table with rainforest music tinkling in the background.

True Vision Thailand filming a raw food special

It just so happens that on the day of my visit, the TV channel True Vision was there to film. If you’re watching channels 6 and 7 Friday July 22 in Thailand, you might catch their special on raw food and Rasayana. I think this also proves that some cultures are much more open to raw foodism as a viable option for a mass audience.

I digress.

The menu is overwhelming and I am so parched I can barely concentrate. Hence the first order of the day for me is something they call an electrolyte surge. To you and I – chilled coconut water and celery juice. I’ve never had that combo before and it was delicious. I’ll be making it at home for sure. It also looks a gorgeous lime green colour – for entertaining perhaps?

a glassful of surging electrolytes

I spend the next 30 minutes deciding what to eat and establish a short list:
• Barley sushi – vegetables, avocado, coconut meat in nori roll
• Mexican Taco cup – mixed vegetables in a crunchy flaxseed taco cup and spicy salsa
• Spaghetti and nut balls – marinated zucchini noodles toppled with savory almond nutballs and a marinara sauce
• Sun burger – almond-celery-sage patty served in a cabbage lead and topped with ‘live’ ketchup.

I end up being so boring I can’t believe myself. I choose cabbage rolls (as above). Mainly because the photo made them look sooooooo amazing. And to be fair they are also not your average cabbage rolls. These are stuffed with carrots, celery, avocado and capsicum (peppers) and served surrounded by a delicious raw seeded mustard (mustard seeds, olive oil, garlic, onion, and apple cider vinegar).

Other than the TV crew I am the only guest here today and am seated a right arm’s-length away from a refrigerated display cabinet filled with the raw desserts. While I am so full I can hardly move, I fight with myself. No, you don’t need it. Yes I do. No you don’t. Please don’t, don’t do it.

raw lime heaven on a plate pie

I order the lemon tart – made entirely from macadamia nuts, lime zest and juice and what I presume to be avocado. I eat it, breathlessly, in almost a single mouthful.

I’ve eaten more in one meal than I have over the last 2 weeks and while I feel uber full, I also feel full with nutrients. I planned to return to Rasayana for dinner but alas a tuk tuk driver drove me to shopping emporium (where he no doubt received commission) instead of the grand Palace where I wanted to go. When I refused to enter it – he drove into the middle of nowhere and demanded I get out. I refused as I had NO idea where I was. Luckily, my strange, feeble and terrified insult – ‘you are dishonouring your country,’ seemed to get him going again. This exact thing happened to me in Delhi last year. No more tuktuk drivers.

If you’re in Bangkok and have eaten your body weight in thai green curry– you absolutely must go to Rasayana for a refreshing and innovative raw menu. If nothing else it will provide a gentle respite from the hectic craziness, dirtiness and onslaught of concrete surrounding you