Carrot & Coriander Falafel + A Giveaway

I have realised that it has been quite a while since I have shared a recipe with you all. As you’ve probably figured out, things have been super busy and peculiar here!

I officially moved into my new flat on Monday night and I am still putting the finishing touches to my kitchen. Once that’s all sorted I’m going to share with you a post about my healing kitchen (seriously, I had the most epic fruit and veg delivery yesterday!) including the foods and the gadgets that  I can’t live without. Then I can finally get onto some recipe testing for you all!

In the meantime, I’m going to be sharing some recipes from some of my favourite healthy bloggers. Today is a super delicious carrot and coriander falafel from Naturally Meghan that I know you’re just going to adore. I made this last night with some added nigella seeds and it was so delicious.

But before I get to that, I just wanted to let you know that I’m doing a little giveaway on my Facebook page. Foodies Festival (London) is having their first ever Christmas event at the end of November, and they’ve very kindly given me three pairs of tickets to share with some of my lovely followers. All you need to is head on over to my Facebook page and follow the instructions on the post! Good luck!

Read My New Article on Best Baking Schools in Delhi.

And now for the good stuff. Over to Meghan:

Ingredients

Makes 20 falafel
  • 1 large carrot, finely grated (yields about 1 cup of grated carrot)
  • 2 x 400g cans/cartons of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180°c then finely grate your carrot – the easiest way to do this is by using the grating attachment on your food processor, then change it to the knife blade and pulse a few times to make sure the carrot strands are small enough.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to your food processor and process them for about 10 seconds, until everything is mixed together well.
  • Be careful not to over-process them though, otherwise you might end up making hummus!Scoop about 1 tbsp of the falafel mixture out of the food processor and mould it into a ball shape – you may want to wet your hands before doing this to ensure that the falafel stick together properly and don’t fall apart.
  • Place the falafel on a baking tray, then repeat with the rest of the mixture (you should get about 20 balls, depending on how big you make them).
  • Once done, pop them into your oven and bake them for 20 – 25 minutes, until they’re golden brown (bake them for 20 minutes initially then check on them every minute or so afterwards).
  • When the falafel are ready remove them from the oven and either leave them to cool or serve them straight away – you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 – 4 days.

Food as Medicine 101: Alcohol

Although I was never what could be described as a heavy drinker, I was partial to a good red wine and a good gin and tonic. Being short, I never had the highest tolerance for alcohol, but after the med-induced brain weirdness, I stopped wanting to drink entirely.

Then, when I started getting massive digestive issues last year, I thought alcohol would help move things along a little bit. So I would have wine with meals. However, once I finally decided to change my diet, I cut out alcohol, and haven’t had any this year. And it’s strange, unlike many foods (read: bread), I have no desire to drink anymore.

Most people are (or at the very least should be) aware of the he negative social consequences of alcohol, so today I’m going to be focussing on the direct health effects. Additionally, I’m going to make the assumption that most of my readers aren’t alcoholics and are therefore able to choose their ‘dose’ and take appropriate measures to negate any of the known indirect dangers (impaired driving, missing work, exposure to violence, etc.) associated with alcohol consumption.

Short Term Effects

Sleep

A typical sleep study administers alcohol 30–60 minutes before bedtime, so that peak blood alcohol concentration is reached at the moment of falling asleep. In general, studies tell us that the tolerance level to the effects of alcohol on sleep occurs within three nights. But, as we all know, alcohol decreases sleep latency. In other words, it made the subjects fall asleep faster.

Once alcohol has been completely metabolised, multiple studies have found a ‘rebound effect’ of disruption of the second half of sleep, and it also suppresses REM sleep in the first half of sleep.

Dehydration

Did you know that drinking 50g of alcohol in 250mL of water causes elimination of 600-1000mL of water over several hours? That’s why you can spend so much time running to and from the loo when you drink. This is caused by the inhibition of the release of vasopressin (anti-diuretic hormone), and vasopressin signals for the kidneys to reabsorb water. I need to guzzle water like a fish (wait, do fish guzzle water?!) and often find that I don’t retain water anyway, so I know that alcohol exacerbates the situation. If I don’t drink enough before going to bed (a fine line between hydration and several trips to the loo) I often wake up feeling hungover. It’s not the most pleasant experience!

Read My New Article on Best Baking Schools in Delhi.

Digestion

As someone with a particularly sensitive gut, I found this of real interest, and it definitely has cemented my decision that alcohol probably isn’t the best thing for my body.

Gastritis

Alcohol consumption can damage mucous membranes of the GI tract, which can lead to inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis). 

Mucous membrane lesions

Mucous membranes of the GI tract from the mouth to the stomach are especially affected because the alcohol is undiluted when it touches these membranes.

The dose at which mucosal lesions appear varies, but risk seems to increase above 2oz/d (approx. 57g/d). In the stomach and small intestines, hemorrhagic (bleeding) lesions and mucosal inflammation can occur after a single episode of heavy drinking

Luckily, this is rapidly reversible, but with chronic exposure (aka lotsa drinkin’) the damage becomes progressive and can cause long term problems.

Dysmotility

Alcohol interferes with gastric motility, causing delayed gastric emptying at concentrations above 15% ABV. As a result, food may begin to be digested by bacteria while still in the stomach (think about that ‘drunk night food’ we often have while drinking), and the gaseous byproducts of this process can cause bloating and discomfort.

Additionally, alcohol consumption decreases ‘impeding wave motility’ in the small intestine. This means that the muscle movements which keep food in the small intestine while it is being digested are less active. At the same time, ‘propulsive wave motility’ (the movements which keep the food moving through the small intestine) is undisturbed. And this combination leads to diarrhoea. Sexy.

Heartburn

Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid (but only from drinks with low alcohol content, such as wine and beer)and a single episode of consumption is enough to weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, causing heartburn.

Malabsorption

Alcohol impairs the digestion of other nutrients in the intestines (such as sodium), as well as the functioning of enzymes such as lactase.

Susceptibility to bacterial toxins

According to Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders: “alcohol induces the release of noxious signalling molecules, such as cytokines, histamine, and leukotrienes.”

These substances can set off a chain reaction that leads to the destruction of the tips of the villi (the finger-like bodies that line the intestinal wall), and the lesions that result allow bacterial toxins to enter the bloodstream.

It’s also worth noting the histamine release here, as it can play a role in reactions for those of us with histamine sensitivity.

Long-term effects

The links between the short-term effects (where we can measure the mechanisms of effect more easily) and long-term effects (where we can often only measure the outcome) are often a matter of debate.

Just so you can get an idea of what we’re talking about when doses are referenced:

  • light: <2.5 g/day (<0.5 drink)
  • moderate: 2.5–14.9 g/day (about 0.5–1 drink)
  • heavy: 15–29.9 g/day (about 1–2.5 drinks)
  • extremely heavy: 30–60 g/day (about 2.5–5 drinks), and >60 g/day (≥5 drinks)
Cancer

A meta-analysis of risk of alcohol consumption (25g/d, 50g/d, 100g/d) on various cancers shows that no cancer risk is reduced by alcohol consumption, even at 25g/d. In fact, many increased, even at 25g/d:

  • oral cavity and pharynx (relative risk 1.75 ± 0.06)
  • oesophagus (1.51 ± 0.04)
  • liver (1.17 ± 0.06)
  • larynx (1.38 ± 0.06)
  • breast (1.31 ± 0.04)

That being said, there is no threshold effect for these cancers: in general, the more alcohol consumed, the more risk there is.

Heart disease

We’ve all heard the saying that alongside an apple, a glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away, right? Well, let’s look into that a bit further!

In a meta-analysis of the effect of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular outcomes, it was shown that consumption is associated with a lower risk of mortality, by all causes (0.87 ± 0.04).

Alcohol consumption was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality (relative risk 0.75 ± 0.05), and consumption associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease incidence (relative risk 0.71 ± 0.06), mortality (relative risk 0.75 ± 0.065).

Consumption associated with same risk of stroke incidence (relative risk 0.98 ± 0.08), mortality (1.06 ± 0.16).

Again, this is all dependent on the dose. According to the analysis, 2.5–14.9g/d is protective against cardiovascular disease mortality, coronary heart disease incidence and mortality, and stroke incidence and mortality.

All doses protective against coronary heart disease incidence and mortality. However, higher doses can be harmful for stroke incidence and mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality (U/J curve).

Interestingly, the same group did a meta-analysis of effect of alcohol on biological markers of heart disease. The findings are consistent with the outcome-based study: light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduction in biological markers of heart disease.

Light/moderate consumption increased high density lipoprotein (‘good cholesterol’), apolipoprotein A1adinopectin levels; reduced fibrinogen levels.

These higher levels of high density lipoprotein associated with lower risk of atherosclerosis (artery hardening). Apolipoprotein A1 “is considered to be the ‘active ingredient’ in HDL-C”, and higher levels of adinopectin associated with a lower risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease.

However, high fibrinogen levels considered risk factor for cardiovascular disease. That being said, light/moderate consumption does not appear to increase triglyceride levels, as was previously suspected. High levels of triglycerides in bloodstream are associated with atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries), but all the evidence points towards low-to-moderate consumption of alcohol as protecting against heart disease.

Bam!

Liver disease

Alcoholic liver disease is a spectrum.

Fatty liver (steatosis) usually presents no symptoms and resolves itself with 4–6 week abstinence from alcohol. It can appear after only a few days of heavy drinking, increasing the risk of cirrhosis.

With alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver changes can cause inflammation of the liver, which can range from mild to life-threatening. This is typically only noticed after decades of heavy consumption; and by this point it often leads to death as the damage has been going on unnoticed. Luckily, this can be reversible with abstinence.

With cirrhosis, the replacement of liver cells with scar tissue leads to a lessening of the liver’s ability to detoxify. Unlike steatosis and alcoholic hepatitis, this is irreversible, and can be fatal without abstinence.

  • evidence of threshold effect:13
    • for women, >24 g/d
    • for men, >36 g/d

Risk factors for alcoholic liver disease to consider are:

  • women are twice as sensitive to alcohol-mediated liver toxicity16
  • in one large study conducted in China, it was found that drinking outside of mealtimes carries higher risk (2.71) of alcoholic liver disease compared to drinking only at mealtimes5
  • one study found that excess body weight (BMI >25 for women, >27 for men) over the past 10 years is an independent risk factor for the development of fatty liver, cirrhosis, and alcoholic hepatitis10

The bottom line?

As with everything, I advocate for balance. I have personally realised that the short term side effects can be too acute for me to drink for pleasure anymore. That’s not to say if I’m out I’ll never perhaps fancy a glass as a treat one day in the future. Those with gastric issues may consider cutting out alcohol and seeing how it makes them feel. I’ve always found that I notice sensitivities a lot more after cutting out and reintroducing…so those always make for interesting food diary entries!

I’d like to thank the awesome Colin Gorrie of Not That Kind of Dr for the wonderful research. If you haven’t checked out his blog, please make sure you do. He covers the science behind health in more detail and is an invaluable resource for those of us trying to dig deeper into how our bodies work…especially when dealing with chronic illness.

We’d both love to hear if there are any foods that you’d be interested in being featured in this series. Do leave a comment below and we’ll see what we can dig up for you!

The “I’m Feeling Sorry For Myself” Period

So, I think it was a bug that has led to a relapse of sorts.

It makes sense…bugs are often the trigger for many conditions like POTS and ME, so if I had one that made my body go a bit doolally, then I totally understand why I’m experiencing what I am.

When looking back online through things that might help, I always come across the more ‘spiritual’ ways of healing yourself. Confronted with books, youtube videos, testimonials about ways of thinking that can help you heal. I’m not denying that these work for many, many people, but for me…it just makes me uncomfortable. I’m not a spiritual person. I don’t believe that we are eternal and a bright shiny light emits radiantly (or whatever) from all of us. It’s just not me.

I like practical. I like logical. Because that’s what works and has always worked for me. On an academic level I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be spiritual or to believe in god. This belief in something that you just can’t quantify must be extremely comforting to people who do. I just don’t. We can spend half a day meditating, and yes, it may be amazing (once you’re able to do it!) but to me that’s not living in the real world. I have stuff to do. I don’t believe in, or feel, any of this stuff.

In fact, when I was Birthright and visited Israel, I thought I’d have my moment. Sunset. New Year’s Eve, the Western Wall, Shabbat. Feeling uncomfortable I made my way up the wall, thinking that if something was going to happen it would happen now. Unable to shake a feeling of fraudishness (yes, that’s a word I just invented), I approached the wall, posted a wish thing in it and backed away. Nope. Nothing. Oh well. And then I slipped on the beautiful slippery stone and dislocated my knee. A sure sign that God hates me! Woo.

Anyway! What I’m experiencing now is most definitely POTS and EDS related. There’s a very particular histamine feeling I get when they’re going a bit bonkers and it’s not that. And the depression has kicked in big time. I don’t want to talk to anyone, be around anyone. It’s too much effort. A big part of that is probably to do with all the social networks that I’m involved in, and I’ve just turned off notifications for everything to keep those bloody pings from taking over my day like they usually do. I’ve spent so much time thinking about other people, that it has been taking away the energy that I need to be spending on myself.

Read My New Article on Best Baking Schools in Delhi.

I’m still trying to make sure I get my work for my job done, because that’s got to be my priority in how I spend my time. I literally can’t get over how amazing my company are. On Tuesday I sat down with my boss and the head of people to discuss how I’m feeling and what they can do to help support me. I don’t know why, but it just makes me uncomfortable that they’d have to put extra time and effort into managing my health. And I know, I really do, that it’s only to help put me at the same level as everyone else, and that it’s only fair. But I hate feeling incompetent because of my body. I told them that whatever I’d need to do, I’ll push through. They told me they don’t want me to do that if it means it’ll have a negative impact on my health. But if this is the relapse I think it is, it’s going to take a while for me to get back on track, and without pushing through I won’t be doing anything!

It’s just that for some reason, I can’t mentally do what I know I should be doing right now. My body is hating food, so I don’t want to eat. I’m being force fed . I don’t understand why I lose weight so quickly when this happens. It’s just like last year. It’s almost overnight. When I’m more stable, and I do cleanses and don’t eat much at all, I barely lose weight. I wonder if it’s the constant POTS attacks and attempts at regulation that are causing my body to burn more calories.

I know that I should go back to the plan I initiated when I first changed my diet. A juice, a smoothie and a soup a day. I don’t want to cook, I don’t want to think about food, and I don’t want to eat/drink them. It feels too much like going back to a place I never wanted to go back to. In fact, I’d rather stuff my face with a massive cheesy pizza (I haven’t) and make myself sicker than do that. Because I clearly am mental. I am going to try and do some super gentle exercise, though. Hopefully it will help with the depression and with shake my body up a bit. Although my right shoulder blade has been in the wrong place for days, and it’s starting to get super painful. The bastard.

I also had an interesting chat with my family yesterday while watching the incredibly moving opening ceremony of the Invictus Games. Undoubtedly incredible men and women who have overcome more than they should have in the service of their country, the games also made me think about the way that events like this are often covered in the media. Yes, the athletes are incredibly inspiring, but they’re often reported alongside an editorial sentiment about how all you need to succeed and push through is mental strength and determination. It makes me wholly uncomfortable. Bar this week and a few blips here and there, I think I possess a lot of mental strength, and I push through al the time. But for me, right now, getting out of bed requires nearly all the strength I’ve got. Writing this will probably use up most of what I’ve got for the day. Walking around the block will use up both mental and physical. People are on a journey (god, I hate that word), and building up unrealistic expectations about what people who are ill, disabled, or injured can do. The people in the Invictus Games and the Paralympics are exceptional. Nothing short of it. But I have conditions of athletes represented at London 2012…doesn’t mean that if I will it into being and working my arse off I’ll become a swimming champion. We all have our peak. And right now, I’d be happy with being able to go to work five days a week.

But this ‘willing’ brings me back to the spiritual. I can say to myself all I want that I’m not going to be sick, that I’m fine. Does absolutely bugger all for me. When I was out on Friday, I didn’t go out thinking that the food is going to make me sick, that I’m going to be tired. Not even a little bit. And bam.

Sometimes real life just gets in your way.

Mint Pea ‘Soup’ Smoothie

I’m actually feeling quite proud of myself this morning. I have realised that I have taken on so much work, and I’m managing to do it without letting myself get too too unwell. Between my job, my Nutritiously Natasha life (and soon to come projects), and various other things I help people out with, I have been one busy bee.

I’m trying to really hard to allow myself to rest. And by rest, I mean genuine rest. For years when a doctor told me I needed to rest I always protested. I was in bed, not going out. That’s pretty bloody restful. But I was always working on a project or three. Keeping my mind busy, active, and often frustrated. It has taken twenty five and a half years for me to start accepting that genuine rest involves trying to find ways to switch your brain off and just say ‘no’ to work for a short period of time. This allows you to be more productive. Now, I generally work in bursts, when my body is ready. Of course, because I have an actual job, I always make sure that my work is done when it needs to be done (often before), but I’m finding that breaking up my tasks into manageable bites, significantly prioritising, and ha

Last Tuesday didn’t work so well on that front. I was in the office for meetings, I ran off to Tanya’s to have a final discussion about this Sunday’s #plantbasedpicnic, and then went to meet Pixie so we could head off to the launch of the new Raw Press Co in Mayfair. Deliciously Ella has designed the menu, and there’s some seriously good stuff on there. A group of us crowded around the juice bar and imbibed a fair bit (although I stuck to the juice and stayed away from the champers). I also really enjoyed the brazil nut pesto zoodles and the sweet potato brownies, which were a different recipe for the one on her blog and were the gooiest things!

Today, I’m resting and working in bed, while looking forward to hopefully having a catch up with Saskia (aka Naturally Sassy) this evening, before having dinner at the Wild Food Cafe with my dear friend Lucy. They’ve got a raw mis-steak tartare this week as their special, and I literally can’t not have it. I’ll admit, I miss steak. So this one being a beetroot, celeriac and fennel ‘steak’ with cashew, avocado and vanilla hollandaise, marinated asparagus and mushroom with wakame salad sounds absolutely to die for!

Meals at the Wild Food Cafe are always super big events for me, because it’s always so good that I want hummus, a smoothie, and a dessert as well! Let’s see how the self control manifests itself today! So I know that I just need to be on the green juice and a green smoothie beforehand!

For some reason last night I was craving a mint pea smoothie. I’ve never heart of a mint pea smoothie or had one before…but I wanted it. My body is obviously wanting some lovely green pea plant protein! Peas are also a unique source of some key phytonutrients that act as wonderful anti-inflammatories. Additionally, they’re a great source of fibre and protein. Who’da thought those soggy peas you had at school (if cooked well!) could be so good for us!

Mint also has a wonderful array of health benefits. Not only is it a natural breath freshener, it can help promote digestion by soothing inflammation, and is often use as a quick fix for nausea. I know that when I feel a bit sick I down a cup of mint tea pretty sharpish! Interestingly, mint is also a natural stimulant, and has been known to help relieve some of the symptoms from fatigue and depression. And for those with a horrid histamine hating body like me, mint can inhibit the release of histamines that can cause our bodies to go haywire.

This smoothie takes seconds to make and is super fresh. Just like soup, but in a smoothie form. Is there anything better?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 large banana
  • Almond milk to blend. I personally like making my smoothies so thick I can eat them with a spoon, so don’t often add much milk!
  • 1 large handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Pinch pink Himalayan salt
  • Additional liquid sweetener if desired

Method

Throw everything in a blender and enjoy! Pour into a bowl, garnish with mint leaves, spoon into mouth!