My green juicing tips

Green smoothies are now a ‘thing’, but I just haven’t found one I like and honestly I’d rather eat my fruit whole and enjoy it, rather than use it to mask the flavour of something I don’t like. Also my digestive system honestly doesn’t always cope well with a cold smoothie landing my stomach. I find fresh juices more manageable, but with juicing you are removing most of the plant fibre, which means the natural sugars in any fruits and vegetables you use are digested and hit the blood stream more quickly (not ideal).

My solution is green juicing, using only green vegetables rather than sugary fruits and roots. One glass a day is plenty for me, and if you’re going through chemotherapy I did read in the Living Well With Cancer Cookbook that you shouldn’t have more than this during treatment. I can only speak from my own experience, but I do feel better for having a green juice each day. Also, it may be a coincidence, but I needed a couple of blood transfusion during the first half of my course of chemo this year, and since I started having a green juice every day I haven’t needed another one. Make of that what you will!

A quick glance at my Instagram will show you how partial I am to an organic veg box delivery, and I do really like the selection offered in the Abel & Cole green juicing box. Unlike a lot of juicing boxes available it doesn’t have any high carb roots and is light on the fruit (only lemons and some apples, which I leave out of my juices and keep for eating whole). You get celery, two cucumbers, two lemons, ginger, parsley, mint, two types of greens (usually spinach and one that varies seasonally, but can be kale, lettuce, chard or watercress), and a few apples – all organic, for £12.50 plus delivery. Admittedly you can also get organic version of most of these in supermarkets, although you’d likely struggle to find organic herbs and ginger.

What generally goes in my green juice:

1 large stick of celery

1/3 cucumber

handful of spinach and/or chunk of broccoli stalk and/or spring greens and/or cabbage

small lump of fennel (about 1/4 small one)

2-3 mint stalks with leaves

small handful of parsley

small piece of ginger (approximately size of large pea, more if liked)

The instructions that come with the juicer generally tell you to sandwich leafy ingredients between harder ones to get the most juice out of them, which works well.

I’m lucky enough to have an Oscar Vitalmax juicer. It’s what’s known as a ‘masticating’ juicer as it ‘chews’ up the veg, which is supposed to be superior to the cheaper ‘centrifugal’ juicers which spin the veg around but may not extract as much juice and oxidise it more. If you haven’t tried juicing before and budget is an issue maybe start out with a cheap or second hand centrifugal juicer and see how you go, then upgrade later. I would definitely recommend the Oscar as it is much quieter, more compact and easier to clean than the centrifugal juicer I previously had, and very easy to use. I was lucky enough to find a pre-owned but unused one on eBay a couple of years ago, but think it is worth the investment at full price.

 

 

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Recipe: low carb fish tacos

This is an amended version of a Nigella recipe to make it slightly simpler to make and also lower carb by swapping tortillas for lettuce boats (you can find the original in her book Simply Nigella and online here, which I suspect is even more delicious).

It’s a great way to make white fish more interesting and makes for a tasty lunch or light supper, especially in the summer.

 

fishtacos

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 fillets of firm white fish (e.g. cod or haddock), skinned

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp flaked sea salt

1 small clove of garlic, crushed or finely grated

1 tbsp olive oil

1 ripe avocado, sliced

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 little gem or mini romaine lettuce, separated into individual leaves

half a red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

juice of one lime

small handful of coriander, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C fan. Put the sliced red onion and lime juice in a bowl to marinate.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, spices, garlic and salt. Place the fish in a roasting dish or tin, and spoon the mixture evenly over the fish fillets.
  3. Bake the fish for 8-10 minutes (depending size), until opaque and cooked through.
  4. You can either serve the fish, avocado, onions, leaves, mayo and coriander in separate dishes for people to assemble or put a selection of each on a plate.
  5. To assemble a ‘taco’, spread a little mayo in a lettuce leaf, add some fish, slices of avocado, a few slices of marinated onion and a sprinkle of coriander.

Skincare: a gentle luxe routine

I must admit this is rather an expensive skincare routine when you add it all up, so I’ve called it luxe with good reason. I’ve accumulated these products over time and most were bought when there were discount offers running or came as part of box subscriptions or gifts with purchase. Some products have also gone up in price significantly since I bought them (e.g. May Lindstrom).

As mentioned in my previous post, over time choosing good quality natural skincare products has become more of a priority for me and something I’m willing to spend more money on (within reason!). I share these products as I enjoy using them and find they agree with my skin, and perhaps you will too.

skincareroutine

Morning routine

  • Twelve Beauty Purifying Cleansing Beauty Cream – this cleanser is formulated to be gentle, with plant extracts and squalene to support the skin barrier. It’s not heavily scent but has a slight herby smell (admittedly not my favourite), but I find it really hydrating and it doesn’t leave my combination skin feeling like its shrivelling if I don’t put anything else on my skin straightaway.
  • Amly Silver Rich Facial Mist – this mist is made in Sussex from local mineral-rich spring water, essential oils and hyaluronic acid. The scent is primarily orange blossom, and it’s very refreshing as a morning spritz.
  • Twelve Beauty Ideal Moisture Level Serum – this serum arrived as part of a Boxwalla beauty box (highly recommended), having crossed the Atlantic and back to get to me. I
  • A’kin Rose de Mai Antioxidant Facial Day Creme – this is the product that made me fall in love with the scent of Rose de Mai. It’s lighter and fresher than other types of rose, and the product itself is really hydrating with high levels of ingredients such as panthenol (vitamin B5), glycerin and some hyaluronic acid. The only downside for me is that is contains sodium hydroxymethylglycinate and phenoxyethanol as part of the preservative system, and I’m now wanting to experimenting with avoiding these as some people report they can be irritating to sensitive skin. However before reading about these ingredients I have used this product for a long time and loved it.

Evening routine

  • de Mamiel Pure Calm Cleansing Dew – this thoughtful range is formulated by Annee de Mamiel, a London-based acupuncturist and aromatherapist with a somewhat legendary reputation in some circles. This is a light oil with a beautifully scented and skin-calming essential oil blend. It emulsifies nicely although you do really need to use more pumps than the two stated on the label.
  • May Lindstrom The Jasmine Garden – this mist has a strong jasmine scent with a slight vanilla undertone, enriched with colloidal silver for its purported anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory action. It may be a bit overwhelming if you’re very sensitive to scents, but if you love jasmine it’s definitely for you.
  • May Lindstrom The Blue Cocoon – a very considered purchased, although this 50ml pot is actually quite a bit bigger than the standard for face balms and lasts many months. It is naturally a vibrant blue colour thanks to blue tansy oil, which has skin soothing properties. I have found this beautiful to use, but especially if my skin has been sore, red or inflamed.

 

What are your favourite skincare products to indulge in?

Supporting Good Sleep Naturally

A good night’s sleep can be difficult to achieve, whether it be due to life stress, medication side effects, or whirring mind. Part of the anti-nausea medication protocol on chemotherapy includes high-dose steroids, and I’ve found these in particular can interfere with my ability to sleep well at a time when it’s most need.

When you’re up against the effects of medication sometimes you just have to ride it out, but there are also several natural methods you can try to help you relax and drift off.

sleep

  • Support melatonin – melatonin is one of the hormones that contributes to good sleep, but exposing our eyes to blue spectrum light (found in sunlight but also produced by digital screens and LED lighting) impairs the body’s production. Avoid using devices such as mobile phones, computers and TV after 9pm and ensure your bedroom is properly dark at night. If you have trouble reducing screen time in the evening, you can now buy amber-toned glasses to filter out the blue light. I struggle with this myself, but I’m working on it.
  • Wind down with herbal tea – find a relaxing evening blend that you enjoy. My favourites are Higher Living Sweet Dreams tea and chamomile and spearmint (Heath & Heather for organic, or Twinings in supermarkets).
  • Relax with a bath – I find Epsom or Dead Sea salts in the bath particularly good. Westlab Epsom salt (£5.99) is an affordable option and widely available in supermarkets, Boots and online. If you can’t manage a bath for whatever reason (I have a PICC line which makes it difficult), a foot bath is a good alternative.
  • Transform your bed into a cloud – it’s really important that your bed is comfortable. If your mattress is a little tired but not yet ready to be replaced, consider a mattress topper. I have the the Luxury Soft As Down mattress topper from Soak & Sleep, and it made a big difference even to a new mattress. I also love their French linen bedsheets, which supposedly help your body to better control temperature and also feel really nice against your skin.
  • Try aromatherapy – essentials oil sprays and roll-ons are now part of my before bed routine, although scent is highly personal and you may have to try a few blends to find one you love. I found Neom Tranquility Intensive Deep Sleep Treatment particularly good. At £8 for a small rollerball it may seem expensive, but they use the highest quality oils and I found this little vial lasted about six months using it almost every night. I also enjoy This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray (£18), and the Tisserand Sweet Dreams rollerball (£5.95) is another good rollerball if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the Neom one.
  • Consider a supplement – magnesium in particular supports the nervous system, but if you’re taking medication do ensure you talk to your doctor first to check it’s safe for you and won’t interact. When choosing a magnesium supplement it’s also a good idea to buy a reputable brand and get some advice from an independent health food shop or supplement company about which type of magnesium to take, as there are quite a few out there. Avoid magnesium oxide as this is poorly absorbed in the intestines, and instead works more as a laxative.

 

Do you have trouble sleeping? What have you found that helps?

Recipe: quinoa tabbouleh

This herby quinoa dish is lovely at any time of year, but particularly good in the summer. I like it with poached wild salmon and green vegetables, but it would be equally great with chicken or as part of a vegetarian meal.

Quinoa is higher in protein than other carbohydrate sources, as it’s technically as seed rather than a grain. It’s also a source of minerals such as manganese, magnesium and zinc. Herbs not only add flavour but a whole array of nutrients, including vitamins C and K.

quinoatabbouleh

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

100g quinoa

a generous handful of mint

a generous handful of parsley

1 large spring onion (or half a small red onion)

1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of half a lemon

sea salt to taste

Method

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve, then place in a saucepan with twice the volume of water. Cook for the length of time stated on the pack (usually 10-15 minutes), until the grains have expanded and the little ‘tail’ has separated a bit from each grain.
  2. Once cooked, put the quinoa on a plate to cool.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking, finely chop the herbs and the onion.
  4. Mix the herbs and onion into the cool quinoa, along with the oil, lemon juice and salt. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  5. Serve with some pumpkin seeds sprinkled over the top for some crunch.

 

Learning to Like: green tea

Green tea has many reputed health benefits; components called catechins (such as EGCG) are thought to support heart health and blood sugar control, while the amino acid L-theanine has a calming effect. I’d never gotten into the habit of drinking green tea, not being a great fan of hot drinks generally, but reading this study on the role of green tea in possibly enhancing ovarian cancer survival rates made me more willing to try (in the spirit of ‘every little helps’).

I’ve found green tea to be bitter when trying it in the past, but I’ve discovered the type of green tea you use and how you prepare it can make a big difference.

Japanese sencha green tea seems to have a more delicate flavour than some other varieties and it is also supposed to contain some of the highest levels of EGCG. Clearspring do a good one, although it’s quite expensive if you buy the tea bags. I’d suggest getting a box to start with to see if you like it, then if you do, consider swapping to the loose leaf version, which I think works out to be more economical.

greentea

In preparing it, using water just before it gets to boiling point helps to reduce bitterness. Then to maximise the antioxidants in your brew, cover your cup (or use a teapot) and leave the tea to brew for 10 minutes. It’s also best to drink it within one hour of making it, again to maximise antioxidant content.

People seem to vary a lot in how many cups they advise you to have per day (from two to eight) and that the benefits are mostly if you do this consistently over a long period of time. For me this is still a work in progress – I tend to aim for two or three, but may have one or none! While green tea is lower in caffeine than black tea or coffee, it does still contain some and this may be a factor to consider for some people. I say go with what feels right for you. No single dietary factor is a magic solution for any health condition, so I think it’s important not to get upset with yourself if you don’t like something or don’t manage to incorporate it into your daily routine.

My 5 favourites places to buy natural skincare

Over the past ten years I have become increasingly conscious what I put on my sensitive combination skin, and now wince slightly at the memory of my skincare routine at university (full of drying foaming ingredients, alcohol, synthetic fragrances and most likely parabens).

As I got more interested in nutrition and complementary therapies, I read more about some of the ingredients commonly used in skincare. Even now it can still be a bit of a minefield knowing what ingredients may be best to avoid if your skin is prone to irritation, or even for health reasons.

Obviously products for sale in the shops must have been through extensive testing and be widely considered as ‘safe’, but there are grey areas that now exist, with some researchers and groups questioning the use of certain ingredients like paraben preservatives and phthalates found in synthetic fragrances. On the other hand there has been an explosion in the ‘green beauty’ market, with many products promoting themselves as ‘natural’. Yet it can vary how natural these products really are, and for some individuals natural essential oils can be a source of skin irritation.

Whether you’re just starting to dip your toe in the water or have been interested in natural skincare for a while but are still confused, there is a really helpful guide here from the sensitive skin care brand Pai that gives a simple and clear explanation of some key ingredients you may want to look out for on labels.

If you’re going through cancer treatment like me, there is a fantastic article here by Judy Johnson on choosing products at a time when skin can become (even more) sensitive. It seems to me the key thing is to look for gentle, hydrating products that don’t strip the skin. The Johnson article introduced me to the brand Twelve Beauty, which is a small but fantastic range of skin care products formulated by the eminently qualified pharmacist and cosmetologist Pedro Català.

My 5 favourite places to buy natural skincare online are:

  1. Naturisimo – a really wide range of ‘natural’ brands stocked, although I still read the ingredients list carefully as some include alcohol and glycols. It’s worth signing up to their mailing list as they have discount offers fairly regularly.
  2. Content – offer a curated collection of brands, and very conscious about ingredients. They also have a lovely bricks-and-mortar in Marylebone if you happen to be visiting London. Great brands include de Mamiel, Idil Botanicals and Twelve Beauty. Again worth subscribing to their mailing list for discounts and free gift offers.
  3. MyPure – probably the first ‘natural beauty’ website I discovered. Their range isn’t as comprehensive as some other stores, but they have a great ethos and some good deals.
  4. LoveLula – a good mixture of classics like Trilogy and smaller brands like OOH! They also have a relatively low order threshold of £15 to get free shipping.
  5. Alyaka – offers some brands that aren’t commonly stocked in the UK, such as Mahalo, In Fiore and Siam Seas. They also offer sample kits for some brands including Mahalo and de Mamiel – you pay about £20-30 pounds for samples of 4-5 products (enough for one use only), then get a voucher for the value of the sample set to use on a full size product above a specified price. Personally I think you have to be pretty sure you want to buy something to make it worth spending the money on the sample set, but if you know you definitely want to buy one of the products from the range it’s a nice way to see what a few different products are like.

 

How important is it to you to choose ‘natural’ beauty products? What are your favourites?