Chatting to our patients as we do, we know that veganism is being embraced more widely. It’s something that takes forethought and planning so we thought we would share some tips from our partner nutritionist Farzanah Nasser and from Julie, our vegan receptionist.
The first thing to mention is a general point about gut health. In the past, we probably didn’t pay much attention to our guts. Keeping our hearts healthy was always the over-riding priority. But nowadays, we recognise the role the guts play in well-being.
There is a growing understanding of the science around the microbiome, explained very well by Dr Tim Spector here: https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/how-to-boost-your-microbiome/. In essence, the microbiome is the vast community of bacteria and fungi that inhabit our intestinal tracts. They influence more than you would imagine.
For instance, 80% of our immune system is to be found in our guts and 95% of the hormone serotonin is made and stored in our microbiome. Serotonin helps keep our moods bright; if it’s in short supply, we become depressed.
We are fortunate to have a great leaflet produced by Nutrition Bites which says that the foods to focus on fall into three categories and are probiotics, fibre and prebiotics.
The leaflet outlines the following smart choices:
For probiotics – yoghurt, kefir, raw cheese and pickled vegetables
For fibre – fruit, vegetables and seeds
For prebiotics, – fermentable fibre such as onions, garlic and leek
Farzanah, our nutritonist says: “Veganism is great as long as you are making the most of all the plant based foods available to you and using them in your meals. Think of your food as making up a rainbow. Each colour contains a different phytochemical and each photochemical has a different health benefit.
“Different plant based foods are feeding different bacteria in your gut ; it’s really important to get the diversity into your diet so that you can feed the microbiome well. Plant based foods include: beans, lentils, herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables.”
Julie has been a vegan for few years, (she transitioned from many years of vegetarianism). She says she finds it easy to be vegan. She doesn’t follow many recipes, she prefers to buy food and then cook, combining it in innovative ways. Her favourite dish to cook is aubergine lasagne. This is how she makes it:
I slice the aubergine and cook them in a frying pan.Meanwhile, I cook broccoli in another pan. After it has cooled down, I chop it and add spinach and mushrooms. Next comes the sauce. I usually use a readymade tomato and basil sauce from Seeds of Change (because it’s quicker, organic and tastes very good), add some salt, a bit of black pepper, oregano, sunflower and pumpkins seeds.
Then I bring everything together. I first do one layer of sauce, then one layer of aubergine, then repeat until everything is used up. After cooking, I sprinkle with the pine nuts ad serve with some fresh rocket and turmeric rice.
Being vegan in London is not hard at all, says Julie. “There are so many shops selling fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts as well as foods like tofu, vegan cheese, alternative milk, yoghurts, ice-creams, cakes, everything has a vegan version nowadays and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants serving foods free from dairy, eggs and honey. The same with clothes, shoes, bags, make up and products that are not being tested on animals or made from animals. Once you get the right mindset, being vegan is easy, fun and ethical: for animals, environment andour health.”