Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil as tested by me.

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil, as tested by me.

After seeing a lot of articles about 101 uses of coconut oil (or more) I decided to write a list of what I’ve used coconut oil for. All of the things I mention here are things I’ve actually used coconut oil for, because there’s a lot of embellished “uses” for coconut oil floating around the internet that aren’t quite verifiable (I wrote about this yesterday in my article 10 Myths About Coconut Oil That Just Need To Die).

1. To cook food. It’s especially good to fry stir fry if you’re having Thai food. I tried spreading it on toast but I didn’t like it. I’ve never tried it in coffee, but in tea, it just sits on the surface as an oily blob even if you use a blender.  People say it’s flavourless in cooking – I disagree, I think it tastes like coconut.

2. As a moisturiser / lotion. Just rub it on your skin. Too much can cause breakouts on sensitive skin (e.g. my cheeks). Bear in mind it sits on the surface a bit, so it will cause grease stains on your clothing, sofa or sheets unless you want to stand upright for several hours after using it. Coconut oil and silky fabrics REALLY don’t mix.

3. As the base for homemade cosmetics, such as DIY lipbalm. Actually that’s the only one I’ve used it for but it was really easy to add some rosewater. I’ll make a video of how to do this real soon.

4. To clean and possibly whiten your teeth via the oil pulling method, which is an Ancient Ayurvedic technique (i.e. they use it in India and have done for a while). I’ve made a video where I investigated the claim that coconut oil can whiten your teeth. Watch the video here.

5. To moisturize dry hair as an intensive conditioning treatment: Melt, slather over hair, leave on for at least 30 minutes and wash out with normal shampoo and conditioner.

6. As a home-made dandruff prevention and scalp soother. Melt a small amount in your hand, rub between your fingers and rub it over your scalp. I found this sped up hair growth as well.

7. To smooth frizz/flyaway hair. Using a small amount regularly prevents split ends so hair appears to grow faster.

8. For hayfever and seasonal pollen allergies. Rub it on the inside of your nose instead of Vaseline to soothe allergies.  This isn’t going to be as effective as Benadryl; it catches the pollen before it gets a chance to get up your nose where it would usually wreak havoc, but of course it’s not going to catch all of it.  When I worked at a pharmacy we used to recommend this to pregnant women as they were unable to take allergy tablets.

9. To make natural home-made tea light candles instead of using beeswax. Melt it, mix with the scents or colorants you feel like, add a wick, set it on fire.  I only did this once and I found the coconut oil melts too quickly unless you do this in a tea-light foil dish thingy.  Do those things have a name??

10. To make natural home-made soap instead of using glycerin. Melt it, mix with the scents and colorants you feel like, and rub it on you in the tub (but remember it’s still going to melt at relatively low temperatures).

Please consult a healthcare provider before using coconut oil if you feel ill.

What have you used coconut oil for?  Did it work as you expected?  Let me know in the comments!

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Meat Free Monday: More Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipes

Given how well my first two cheese sauce recipes went down last week, here’s two more.  They’re a bit more complicated but I’ve made pasta and cheese in all of these methods and can vouch for the fact that it will scratch an itch, even if it’s not remotely nutritious (more advice on making this meal more nutritious at the bottom).  Some of these are more realistic than others, as a general rule of thumb, the harder it is to make, the more realistic it comes out, so it’s up to you how much effort to expend in making vegan cheese sauce.  I oscillate – sometimes I don’t care enough to take any time and other times I’m spending half an hour on that perfect vegan cheese sauce recipe and smoothing out lumps with my hand blender (that’s a pro-tip, btw).  It all depends on how hungry or rushed I am vs how much I miss cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce 3. Using vegan cream cheese, method C:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)

About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).

About 1 tablespoon of cornflour.

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.

Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like.

3. Add the cornflour (sieving it into the pan with a fine mesh sieve is the best way to avoid lumps, but work with what you’ve got) and combine well with a fork.

4. Once the sauce has reached the right consistency, serve it all up – put the pasta in bowls and pour the sauce over the top.

Cheese sauce 4. Using vegan cheese slices, vegan cheese sauce method D:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 3-4 dairy free cheese slices per person (Tofutti or Violife are the UK brand leaders),

Method:

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. Put the pasta back into the pan. Tear the cheese slices up and drop them into the pan.

3. On a medium heat, stir the cheese slices into the pasta. Need it cheesier? Add more cheese!

4. Serve it in the right number of bowls and eat it.

Nutrition: To make these more nutritious, use cauliflower or broccoli (or some of both) instead of pasta.  I like to also throw in a serving of frozen or fresh peas to ensure there’s some colour on my plate.  A handful of peanuts will help you achieve your day’s protein goals.  I strongly recommend you don’t use lentils – they don’t work well in this sauce.

You can make any of my recipes gluten-free by subbing the pasta for GF pasta.

Stay tuned for next Monday when I will put up the all-singing all-dancing Oven Baked Vegan Mac-N-Cheese Recipe that you will want to get your hands on.

The Easter Bunny

Trigger Warning: This story may trigger feelings that you need to help animals in some way, shape or form.

katie eating 1
This is what part of a rabbit’s ideal environment looks like.  RIP Katie bunny.  Katie was dumped in a box outside my vets and I adopted her.  She would still be alive today if someone hadn’t mistreated her when she was young.

My earliest memories are of my mother, my brothers and sisters. We had shared a womb. So comfortable and soft, I felt perfectly safe and happy with them. Sometimes we would push each other out of the way to get milk, but we loved each other really.

After a few weeks, tiny, scared and helpless, we were all lifted up and put into a metal box. It hurt our paws. We looked to our mother to protect us, but she just stayed where she always did, unresisting, submissive, she had seen this all before.

We were put into a lorry.  A yawning metal monster.  There was darkness, and noises. Terrifying noises. Squawks, squeaks, squeals. As we stayed in the lorry, I realised they weren’t predators, they were the sounds of frightened animals. More creatures, taken away from their home too soon, left in this dark place which lurched and tipped sideways, leaving us struggling to balance. One of my brothers hurt his foot in that dark place, when the lurching stopped abruptly, and the monster we were inside let off an ear rending honk for what seemed like ages. My brother lost his balance and got his foot trapped in the bars in front of us. He struggled, and got free, but his foot looked very swollen and painful.

At long last we stopped. Light came in as the back came off. We were moved out of the lorry. They picked me up and turned me upside down, I thought my spine might break then I felt sleepy, but I was so afraid that I tried to fight it. They told me I was a girl and put me in a new box. When they came to my brother with the hurt foot, they poked at his foot and called him damaged goods, unsellable stock, and they held him high in the air. They let go. Later they told this important looking inspector that they had dropped him while he was wriggling. It was classed as an understandable accident. My brother, dead on the concrete floor.

My brothers and sisters knew what had happened, and were all very scared. They were treated as I had been, and either put in the same box as me, or put in a separate box. Then we were all put out in a bright place with lots of tidy shelves. We didn’t go on the shelves though. We were left in a small enclosure with glass windows. There was no roof. The lights were bright but it was warm and there was lots of golden sawdust on the floor, some toys for us to play with, a food bowl and a weird metal tube. We huddled together for hours, all the girls, and in the next pen, I could see that the boys did the same. We didn’t know where we were, what was going to happen to us. When someone opened the front we all stomped and cowered even further away from the glass windows. They poured some brown stuff into our bowl. Put some yellow stuff down on the sawdust. Closed the front again and left us.

One of my sisters sniffed the yellow stuff. She indicated that it was supposed to be grass, by chewing it. The rest of us were very surprised. Surely there was some mistake. Grass was green. We had seen it. The light was strange here, too. We were all very hungry, so gradually we unhuddled to try this yellow grass. It was dry and flavourless. We ate it anyway. Soon we were very thirsty, so we drank from the metal tube. It was much bigger than the one we’d had before, and we all struggled to drink from it, but there was no choice.

Later, different people came in. Small people who shouted and banged on the glass a lot, they were terrifying. One of my sisters got picked up by one. The small person hit her because she tried to struggle away from the uncomfortable grip. The person who fed us was not looking. My sister was taken away in a cardboard box by that small person. She was terrified. We never saw her again.

There were also tall people, who towered down over the open top of our enclosure. We were afraid that they might eat us. Sometimes there were dogs, walking on their leads. They paralysed us with terror, especially when they tried to get at us and started barking. We were trapped. If they jumped in here, we would all be dead. We felt so vulnerable.

Dark time was worst. It was cold, and we all jumped at every noise, terrified of the murky shadows we could see beyond our enclosure. Above us, some rodents would dig and chew and run on their wheel at night. We found ourselves relieved in the morning when the light came back.

That second day, someone took me and my sister away in a box. We were scared, and we stayed close to each other for safety. We didn’t really see where we went, although we were bumped and tilted a lot so we guessed it was like that terrifying lorry monster again. We wondered if we had been bad, if this was our punishment. Maybe we hadn’t groomed each other enough. Or eaten too much food.

The top of the box was opened at long last. We were face to face with a face. It was bigger than either of us. An enormous hand reached in and picked up my sister, then, empty, it came back for me. I fought it with my feet to try and escape, but it squeezed me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. It put me down in a small wooden box. There was a very low ceiling, and the back of it was also made of wood. They closed the front – a wire mesh door – and clipped a small water bottle to the front. There was food and hay and sawdust, but there were no toys or other bunnies. Just me and my sister. We chewed at the wooden walls. Then we went to sleep. We waited for something interesting to happen.

Two days later, someone came out to see us. It was a small person, but not as small as some of the other ones we had seen. We were squealed about. Then the mesh door was opened, and a hand reached in. It pulled me out and ensconced me in a squash. There was a second hand, which stroked my back. I liked that. I wiggled my nose and clicked my teeth together and enjoyed the attention, even though I disliked being picked up. Then I was put back in the hutch and it was my sister’s turn. She was stroked then returned to the hutch.

The mesh door was closed again. Was that it? We were bored. Really bored. We had nothing to do. We groomed each other until our coats shone. We slept until we were the most beautiful bunnies. We scratched at the floor and chewed at the wood. We were still really bored. We both wanted to explore, to forage, to run really fast, to chase each other, to flop on the solid ground and all we could do was chew our hutch.

The one who had stroked us… she was coming back, wasn’t she? She seemed happy about us. She did come back out that evening, and gave us lots of the yellow hay and lots of the brown food and stroked our backs a little bit. We were still a little wary but she seemed not to want to harm us.

A week later, she let us out in the garden. At first we were afraid that we were not allowed out. We had been in that tiny box for a week. We grew bold. We ran around chewing green grass and playing chase with each other. After a while, she caught us both and stroked us and put us in our box again. That had killed half an hour. It was over too soon. We were bored again. We chewed our hutch some more.

Every day, she came to feed us. Then one day, she didn’t come. We were so hungry that we chewed our hutch extra to ease our aching tummies. The next day, she didn’t feed us extra, just the normal amount. We didn’t know what had happened. A few days later, it happened again. We started to realise that we couldn’t depend on this small person at all. We were hungry. Then our bottle went bad, and all the water tasted funny and made our poo sloppy.  The tummy ache started to become constant.  And all the time, nobody cleaned out our hutch. We tried to keep each other clean but we were fighting a losing battle because only our sleeping corner was clean.  My eyes watered and I sneezed and wheezed a lot.

After long weeks, the man who brought us here came out. He let us run around the garden. We were so happy we ran and played and nibbled plants. He seemed to be emptying our box. Then he saw where we had chewed it. He hit us both and told us we were bad rabbits, but we didn’t know what we had done. Had we eaten the wrong plants? Should we have stayed in the hutch when he opened the door? He didn’t seem to be making an effort to catch us or put us away. We were both confused. We decided to put it out of mind and we went off around the garden again playing. Slightly more afraid now of this tall person. Then he filled our box with new sawdust and hay and food, and put our bottle back on the front, and herded us back into the box. We were bored again. We slept and chewed our hutch some more.

From that day, the tall person brought us food. He never stroked us or spoke to us like the girl had. He just threw the food in, closed the door and left. We didn’t really understand, but we had each other and that was the main thing.

As we got older, we started having little arguments. Sometimes she would scratch my ears and sometimes I would bite her nose. We were getting quite large, now, and it was a struggle to fit us both in our sleeping place. We certainly couldn’t stretch out like we used to. Our backs ached from always being hunched over. We dreamed of running around the beautiful garden that we could see, but instead we were stuck in a wooden box that was too small for us.

Weeks turned into months. That first winter was the most awful. The cold made us both cry and flatten our ears against our backs, but we had to sit out in the cold next to the bare wire mesh door, because our sleeping room was too small and we could barely sleep in there, let alone hang out. We craved more food, but every day the tall man just threw the same amount in. The rain came in and made our home damp. My sister got a wheeze. The man didn’t notice. Eventually, she was struggling so much to breathe that she died. I tried to raise the alarm but nobody came. I stomped my foot for hours, but nobody came. The man threw food in, and didn’t notice. It was a week later, when maggots were eating my sister’s body, that he finally investigated the smell, and saw that she was dead. He pulled her out and tossed her in a tall thin plastic box full of black plastic bags. I don’t think he was sad. I was the only person who mourned her. All the hopes we’d had, all the things we had wanted to do – to chew, to climb, to snuggle, to run as far as we could. She hadn’t even finished growing – as I found out when the box I lived in got even smaller.

Now, I was sad and lonely. I didn’t eat my food. I didn’t drink anything. I didn’t even chew my hutch any more. I just sat there and did nothing. I stared out at the garden I would never get to play in, wishing I could have my sister back. I keened for her loss. And I was so cold, now that she wasn’t here. I missed her profoundly. Nobody noticed or cared, until the man who brought the food saw that my bowl was overflowing. He tried to put the food in my face but I wouldn’t eat it. He put me in a smaller cardboard box and I hoped we were going back to see the rest of my brothers and sisters. That would have made me feel better – just to know there were other bunnies in the world who loved me.

Instead, we went to a place that smelled of fear, death and, predominantly, dog. There were dogs everywhere. Barking, whining, walking, wagging their tails. I cowered in my box and stomped my foot so they would know I was really large and not to mess with me. The man took me into a room and pulled me out of the box. Another man looked at me, held me, turned me this way and that. They made people-noises, the new man seemed irritated, then he put me back in the box.  He said a lot of things to the man who had thrown food in my wooden box.  The food man left me there and I never saw him again. Apparently if I wouldn’t eat his food he didn’t want to know. The other man put me in a new cage near some cats and dogs. I was terrified of the smell, but they didn’t seem to notice me, maybe they were asleep. The man, who I discovered was called a vet, brought me green plants and gently stroked me.  Nobody had stroked me for months. I was so excited that I wanted to nibble the green plants, but the dog smell stopped me. What if this was a trap to find out if I ate plants? Dogs ate things that ate plants. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I went to sleep.  Hours later, I was awakened to find that I was moving again.

I stopped moving at another brightly lit big place. I could smell rabbits, as well as cats and dogs. I nibbled my green leafy plants. Over the next few weeks, I went back to the scary dog place, where they made me go to sleep and when I awoke I felt so ill that I thought I must be dying. I sat in a corner of my new cage for days, feeling sorry for myself. It hurt so much and I felt like something had been taken from inside me – like I’d been violated somehow. Then after I got over that, my life changed forever.

Another bunny came to see me. He seemed as surprised as I was about being in the middle of an unfamiliar room, with an unfamiliar bunny. I said hello with my nose. He didn’t bite it. That was a good start. We sat staring at one another for long minutes, until he came towards me. I was afraid so I ran away. Round and round we ran, until he stopped chasing me, and I cautiously hopped towards him. I sniffed his face. Then I sat down next to him. He seemed okay. We stayed like that for a long time, until one of the tall people here put us both in my cage. It was much bigger than my old box in that garden. I spent a lot of time sat next to my new friend, even though there was so much to do. Early in the morning we would run around in huge fast circles. Later on, we would chew some cardboard and make nice shapes out of it. Then we would eat together, then we would wash ourselves and snuggle up.  I wished my new friend could have met my sister; I know they would have been friends.

One day, someone new came, and they picked me up. Then they picked up my new friend. I was suddenly very afraid that we were going to be separated, and I didn’t think I could bear it. I licked my friend’s head as soon as he was back on the ground and he stomped to show them that his place was with me. Whatever we did must have worked, because a few days later, the same someone came back with a plastic box with some hay in it, and we were both encouraged into the box, then we were taken on another journey. At the other end, the box was opened, and the landscape was the strangest I’d ever seen.

The floor was squishy but slightly coarse and beige. The light came from a big square on the wall, a bit like the door on my box where I used to live, but there was no fresh air coming from this square. There was a huge thing that had lots of platforms and ramps, and a little white picket fence in front of it. On the floor, just inside the picket fence, there was a food bowl and a water bowl. They had pictures of orange triangular things on them. There was also a green leafy thing on the floor that looked like some sort of vegetable. In a basket made of thick hay, there was lots of green stuff that looked like it actually used to be a plant! I was quite afraid that we weren’t supposed to have come out of the box, this was all so big and open. Would we get hit for escaping? I was very hesitant, but my new friend was braver. He hopped right on out towards the food bowl and rubbed his chin over it. I wasn’t having that, so I copied him, so he would know it was MY food as well. The people were watching us and making their strange people noises. I was still scared, so I ran for the smallest place I could see, and hid there. Eventually, the people went away but I stayed hidden in case it was a trap. My bunny friend seemed to be less scared than I was. The distance between me and the walls and the ceiling was making me feel queasy. It was the biggest box I’d ever been left in. Was it really all for me and my friend? After a few hours, the people came back in. I knew it! I stayed in my hiding place. They left again. They had brought us some more vegetables. I wondered if they would get angry and send us away if we didn’t eat them. I stretched my nose out and sniffed. The food seemed so far away. I stretched some more. Then my back legs had to follow and they sprung back to the rest of me. My back was sore from stretching out. I tentatively nibbled some of the green stuff. I don’t quite know what happened because I swear I only tasted it, but it was gone really quickly. I think it ate itself. It was very tasty. I hoped there would be more.

Running round was so much more fun with a huge space to run in, and I really liked climbing, too, once I got the hang of it. After a few days, I became quite confident and I started to climb on everything. I found a really good vantage point at the top where I was the tallest bunny ever, and I laid out there, relaxed, with a great view of any intruders. My bunny friend joined me, and it became our main hangout.

What I liked best about our new home was that the people who brought us food would also come and sit with us. If we were lying down, they would gently stroke us both, and we would click our teeth appreciatively. I wished my sister had lived to see such happiness. The other thing they did, was they talked to us in their odd people noises. They had a sound for everything! We learned that we had names, and we learned that we felt very happy when we were told, “good bunny” because it was always accompanied by a stroke or a treat. We also learned to feel very sorry for ourselves when we were told “bad rabbit” because the sound was barking, like a dog, and there were no strokes or treats for bad rabbits.

Years came and went. I enjoyed every new day and the possibilities it brought. I loved the new and thoughtful toys that my people brought me, and I really felt like they were a part of our herd, even though they didn’t sleep with us. Sometimes, we saw the rest of their burrow, and it was huge. Everyone had their own separate nest space and there was a communal one down lots of small platforms, one after the other, that I learned to run up and down really quickly for fun. Near the communal nest space was the food place. It was full of food. Sometimes the smell upset me because it reminded me of the smell of my sister when she was dead. Usually, though, the smell was exciting and made me look forward to my own food time – even if I never had the same food as them. Well, unless I hopped up and ran off with a leaf or a slice of carrot.

I was so happy in my new home, and I thought how lucky I was to get such a wonderful place to live. There are millions of rabbits who don’t make it this far in life, whose owners leave them in a wooden box at the bottom of the garden, who maybe throw some food at them if they remember.

They live sad, pointless, lonely lives of boredom and lack of fulfilment. The only reason I can think why people do that to us is because their own lives are the same, and they don’t see why animals should be happy if people aren’t. Worse still, they “free” rabbits into the wild, where they get eaten before they can even find their way, or where they die of diseases that people invented to kill wild rabbits, or they do all sorts of other unimaginable things to bunnies who have no voice of their own.

Occasionally, though, you will find your person, and they will sit with you and tell you things, feed you intriguing vegetables and take you out to interesting and safe outdoor spaces, they’ll stroke you and make you toys, and love you unconditionally, and understand when you get scared and bite or scratch them, they’ll never shout at you or hurt you, and most of all, they will be glad that you are around. And when you find a person like that, the days fly by in a flurry of excitement until one day you are old and fat, and you have led a longer and happier life, full of love and fulfilment.

BUNNY is for LIFE not just for EASTER
Fifer’s first day with us after we adopted him two years ago.

Could you be anaemic? Iron Explained

Could You Be Anaemic? Iron Explained

Iron pills - the ones at the bottom are NOT vegan and contain gelatin (not stated on outside of box).  The other two are fine.  The ferrous sulphate are available over the counter in the UK.
Iron pills – the ones at the bottom (ferrous fumarate) are NOT vegan and contain gelatin (not stated on outside of box). The other two are fine. The ferrous sulphate are available over the counter in the UK.

This article outlines the problems with vegetable iron sources – and the solution (and it’s not necessarily meaty).

The science bit:

Iron is a mineral. It’s also an element, which means it’s on the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The fact that everything in the universe is made of chemical elements is why it makes me giggle when people come out with all that “it’s natural there’s no chemicals in this product” nonsense. Every atom is a chemical element of some sort, and every molecule is a combination of atoms – a chemical..

Iron has the chemical symbol Fe and is one of the transition metals, it’s moderately reactive, that is to say that it’s not as reactive as the group I and group II metals (zinc, magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium… you should watch a video about some of these if you haven’t seen them react in water). It’s still fairly reactive though, when compared to copper, gold, silver, or any of the group 4 or group 0 elements (such as carbon, which is in group 4).

The nutritional bit:

We need a small amount of a lot of different metals in our body – we call these minerals, because it sounds nicer than calling them either metals or chemical elements. We need 8-18mg of iron in our bodies every day. That means eating some broccoli on Monday isn’t going to cut it by the time Tuesday rolls round, and it’ll be long used up by Thursday.

The funny thing about dietary iron is that there are two types. Iron likes to behave differently under different circumstances because it does weird stuff (copper is similar in this respect), so it actually does make a difference whether your iron came from an animal or non animal source. In biochemistry, they actually have two different names for these two sources of iron – animal-derived iron is called heme iron (which is what you have in your body after your body has processed it) and plant-derived iron is called non-heme iron. The iron you find in your blood is always heme iron.

Basically, if you eat heme iron, the animal you got it from has already done the hard job of turning the non-heme iron into heme iron, which means you can absorb more of it, and you absorb it faster, and less of it is needed or wasted. If you eat non-heme iron, you are the one who has to do the job of turning it into heme iron before it can get to your blood stream (to make hemoglobin – see how they both have the same word stem). This makes it a slower process, and means you should eat more of it, because its less absorbable.

For vegans, this can pose a problem but being aware of it means that you can easily overcome it. The solution is to just eat more iron-containing foods, such as the ones I’ve listed in my table of vegan nutrition in this article. You do need to be aware of this though, because it means the Recommended Daily Allowance / Daily Value for iron doesn’t give you a true picture of how much iron you need to consume as part of your daily vegan diet. The medical associations who made that stuff up were doing it under the assumption that you eat an “average American/British/Insert Your Country Here diet.” For most vegans, that’s not you, which means you need to fiddle those numbers a bit and get more iron than the omnivores, so you get the same amount of iron in your blood as they get in theirs.

The medical bit:

If you don’t get enough iron, you will become anaemic. Anaemia is a decrease in the amount of red blood cells, because without iron, you can’t make red blood cells. They are the ones that carry oxygen around your body to release energy (which is the whole point of breathing and the process is called respiration). If you don’t have anything to carry the oxygen, you will constantly be tired and weak, and you will probably also be thirsty and dizzy and confused. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t go pale until the anaemia has reached a very severe level, so don’t rely on that as an indicator.

The list of symptoms of anaemia are:

Weakness, fatigue, general malaise, poor concentration, poor temperature regulation (feeling too hot or too cold for no reason). Some people also get depression, shortness of breath and in some cases, palpitations or angina can be present, due to increased heart rate as the body thinks it’s been exercising (anaerobic respiration) due to the lack of oxygen getting around the body.
Eventually, anaemia can kill you. Brittany Murphy and her boyfriend both died from pneumonia, which was a complication of the severe anaemia that they both had.

Not all of these symptoms will affect everybody, and the only reliable way to tell is to go to a doctor and get a blood test done. They will invariably want to put you on iron tablets, but be careful because I was given some last January that were called “Ferrous Fumarate” and they were made with gelatin, so that was a waste of money. Also be aware that in the UK those iron supplements that you get on prescription are also available over the counter, and if you pay for your prescriptions you should ask for the price because they’re usually selling for half the price of the prescription charge (and they’re not the ones you’ll find on the shelf – they’re more effective).

If you have anaemia, it’s a really good idea to take the iron tablets (I have some that are called ferrous sulphate which are vegan, but it will depend on the manufacturer as to which type are ok because different pharmacies use different brands which have different recipes, so always check). Making changes to your diet will help maintain your current iron level, but eating more iron-rich foods won’t be enough to increase your iron levels as much as is needed to overcome anaemia because you’re losing more blood cells by the minute due to the fact that you exist.

Side effects of iron tablets depend on which ones you get but I found the following side effects:

1. Standard off the shelf iron supplements – diarrhea, feeling too hot, stomach discomfort. They also don’t have enough iron in them to resolve anaemia (they have 14mg and the Ferrous Sulphate have 200mg).

2. Ferrous Fumarate – the idea made me feel sick due to the gelatin, so I didn’t actually take any.
3. Ferrous Sulphate – greenish tinge to stools, looser bowel movements, but nothing too spectacular. Sometimes they give me mild headaches.

In the long term, you are better off just eating more iron-rich foods. In the short term, get some supplements until you feel better. To prevent anaemia, always make sure you’ve eaten a bit more iron than you think you need. Remember, it’s not the general vegan diet that’s caused the anaemia, it’s your individual food choices within that vegan diet – so you have the power to fix it without necessarily having to resort to stopping veganism. Don’t deny the problem though if you have one because anaemia is really serious and totally curable.

Obviously doctors (and everyone else) are very quick to blame the vegan diet for anaemia, and for good reason, but do bear in mind that it doesn’t make you exempt from the other causes of anaemia which are more serious, so if your anaemia persists for several months while you’ve been taking supplements, go back to your doctor so he or she can thoroughly investigate the problem and make sure they didn’t overlook a serious blood disorder or something else important. If this is the case, it may be your sad duty to stop being vegan and include some meat in your diet to keep yourself alive.

If that happens, try not to be too hard on yourself. It may be that once you’ve got your iron stores high enough, you can be vegan again.

I was first diagnosed with anaemia in 2010. I spent 3 years in denial of the problem, until in late 2013 I developed a chronic blood loss problem that lasted 3 months. The blood loss caused the doctor to test for anaemia. This time, I eventually had to accept the diagnosis, from a different doctor, based on a different blood test. I was so anaemic that I had to take the iron tablets twice a day and I was also told, in no uncertain terms, that if I did not start including red meat in my diet I would never be able to function normally. For the first six months I made sure I ate red meat every second day. Then I tapered it down to about once a week. Then I left off unless I craved it, because in my experience my body tells me what it needs. Then I stopped completely, on 31st December 2014.

It’s two months since I stopped with the red meat regime and returned to being vegan. I’m now about 60-40 fruitarian to vegan, and I thoroughly researched the sources for nutrients before I considered changing my diets, which is what led to this vegan nutrition food sources table.

I do still take the Ferrous Sulphate when I need it, such as over the past week where the dizziness (technically it’s classed as vertigo, because it’s defined as “the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving” which is coupled with a feeling of disorientation and confusion, and always my first sign of anaemia, along with dry lips and skin) returned and I had to leave school early on Friday, leaving my classes in the hands of a cover teacher and losing half a day’s pay. I hate missing school for both of those reasons. So I’m back on the iron tablets again, due to the return in the last couple of weeks of the chronic blood loss problem, and I’m hoping that by catching it early this time, it will mean I don’t have to eat meat again. I’m also taking Vitamin K to help with the clotting.

https://invokedelight.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/wellness-are-you-getting-enough-vegan-nutrients/

[wellness] The False Concept of Cooking

I’ve always been a big fan of eating whole, unharassed, clean vegetables. I really love the simplicity of it. I think it’s one of the things I love most about my rabbits – we can pretty much eat the same food. However, I didn’t always know how to eat. My biggest mistake when I first became vegan was that I tried looking for foods in the supermarket that were beyond the fruit and veg aisle. I found myself frustrated with the conventional foods and convenience foods in the parts of the supermarket that I’d always bought food from, the fact that dietary staples such as Packet Pasta (an example would be Kraft Macaroni), vegetarian frozen food, vegetarian chilled ready meals, curry sauces, snacks and even drinks were full of animal products. I had many a meltdown in the supermarket where I would just walk out of the shop and sit in my car and cry, because I didn’t know what to do, I was certain I wasn’t going to eat that crap, but I didn’t know what to eat.

Something my aunt told me recently, when I told her a vegan friend has found out she’s gluten intolerant, was “she’s going to have to learn to cook then.”

This is the big myth that keeps us all subjugated and enslaved to a world of shit food.

You don’t have to learn to cook. You don’t need to learn to cook.

You need to learn to eat.

A lot of “so you want to be vegan” type books (apologies if this book is real, I’m categorizing a type of book here) tell you that you need to eat more whole foods, that you can get “meaty” foods like tofu, Facon (fake bacon), scheeze (fake cheese) and so on, to replace the meat in your food.

Meat loss is not the problem.

All these eating books have built up the idea that you need to replace the meat with a solid, meat-textured object, that you only need to check the ingredients are animal free, and that if you do, POP! You’re vegan.

This type of eating is unsustainable, and really it undermines the fundamental principles of veganism. Instead of trying to find foods that you used to eat which happen to be vegan, and attempting to subsist off those (beans on toast anyone), or trying to “veganize” foods which are not vegan, or imitate foods, here’s a staggering thought:
How about try eating totally different foods, including lots of fruit and vegetables, and see where that takes you?

I’m only being slightly sarcastic here because it wasn’t until my mum died of cancer in December that I realised what I’d been doing wrong with my eating habits this entire time. We all do it. It’s so ingrained into us from birth that we must eat a particular way and when we question it we’re told it’s because of nutrition and when we get ill we’re told it’s because we’re not eating a particular way. On paper, I’ve always thought I understood this concept of “changing the way you eat” and thought it just meant, “stop eating animal products” and “move away from meat and two veg nonsense.” It’s so very much bigger than that.

What if the answer was to totally break free from all the things you think you know about cooking, all your kitchenware, all your dishes, steamers, microwave, etc etc? And then, once you’ve started listening to your body, identifying what it needs, and acting on it, you could maybe add some of those things back in?

After I got the news about my mum, I couldn’t eat anything other than raw vegetables for a week.

I didn’t understand why. My 22 year old sister, across the country, was spontaneously having the exact same problem. We both fundamentally knew, no matter what anyone told us was the cause of our mother’s death, that food was the key. In our house growing up, a meal would be chicken nuggets and chips, with maybe a tablespoon of tinned peas or sweetcorn. Snacks were crisps, biscuits and in summer, home-made ice lollies made from that stuff you dilute. We never had real fruit juice, fresh vegetables or fruit. Sometimes at Christmas there would be tangerines. When we went to clear her house, we found receipts for food shopping. Ready meals full of processed meat and other junk. I had changed the way I ate when I first left home at 18. Moving in with an Aunt while I finished school had been a culture shock. The idea of eating two freshly cooked vegetables with the evening meal literally astounded me. I felt so healthy. I didn’t even consider the possibility that this was only a moderately healthy meal. I still filled my face with chocolate and crisps, now adding biscuits and cakes to the list.

Sometimes, when I’m reading about nutrition and I come across some of the delicate balances of nutrients that we humans need, I wonder how it is that some people are still alive. I wonder how my sister and I didn’t grow up with some serious developmental disorders due to what we were eating.

I went to university. I became vegetarian. I felt like I’d never been healthier. I swapped sausages (which I’d always detested) for vegetarian sausages. Chicken nuggets became vegetarian nuggets. Chips (fries) were still chips. Pot noodles and spaghetti hoops were still the same too. Crisps (potato chips) were still a daily dietary staple. So was chocolate. I struggled with my weight, constantly fighting to get down to a 10 (US6). I exercised and didn’t understand why I was tired all the time. It literally didn’t occur to me that my poor diet was making me ill.

Fast forward two years. I became vegan. I took the “3 week vegan challenge” and, once the three weeks were up, I never really got round to eating eggs or dairy again. I felt healthier, stronger, happier, more outgoing, my grades soared and I was finally on track to get the degree classification I’d been obsessing over for the past two years. Never had I felt better. All my life, I’d been plagued by stomach pains, stomach cramps, trapped wind, bloating and a constant feeling of nausea. I had actually associated that nausea with feeling full. When I became vegan, after the first two weeks, all these problems went away. I realised that it wasn’t normal to feel like this, and that I had the power to avoid it. That was when I first started wondering if I was lactose intolerant. I had a few false starts in the first year; every time I slipped up, I felt the familiar nausea and pains in my stomach. It became a big decision-making factor in what I ate. And nothing vegan ever made me feel like that.

Two years later, I’d become quite ill. I’d been working at McDonalds and eating fries for lunch every day, or a hash brown if I was on the breakfast shift. Milkshakes started creeping their way in. And ice creams. Soon I was feeling sick all the time again, and I had forgotten why this happened. I thought it might be gluten, I was adamant that it couldn’t possibly be milk. After six months off gluten and feeling only slightly better (probably because my favourite food was pasta and cheese sauce), I had to concede that it was milk. I was being sick several times every day. I got very ill with a mobility problem and was in bed most days, with no money to buy good food. I finally cut out milk and, while some of my problems improved, others got worse.

I had cut out milk, but I hadn’t replaced it with anything. Yes, I was drinking soy milk instead of regular milk in my tea, but there was also the lasagna, mac and cheese, yoghurt; I had replaced them with totally different milk-free foods, but I hadn’t replaced the nutrients. Primarily, the protein.

I didn’t realise this until a fitness instructor was sat next to me at lunch one day and she looked at my food, tapped the plastic container and demanded “where is your protein?” in a particular tone that the written word cannot emulate. I looked at my food. I looked at her. Nettled at criticism of my food, I said, “I have protein with my evening meal.” She told me it wasn’t good enough. We never spoke much again, but in the back of my mind it got me thinking. Where was my protein?

I got wrapped up in other things such as teacher training, and my nutrient stores got even more depleted, until one day, early last year, I realised I couldn’t carry on. I was working 70 hours per week and not getting enough time to eat. I got diagnosed with anaemia and I knew it wasn’t the only problem. I looked at all my proteins in the cupboard and I could have cried. Quinoa, advertised as a complete protein, is one of the worst sources of protein of everything ever. White pasta has more protein. My Quorn, a vegetarian substitute for meat, which I was only eating for the protein because I hated the stuff, but it said on the label “good source of protein” was the second worst offender. In some cases, less than ten grams of protein per 100g. I believe, after years of false advertising, that they changed the labelling in the last 3 months because it’s a terrible source of protein. Nuts, textured vegetable protein and tofu all did a lot better. Nuts were the best. And lentils were really good as well. Mushrooms were another shocker, with hardly any protein in them. As a comparison, I looked at the meat that my boyfriend kept in a particular freezer drawer. The salmon, lamb, and chicken were all good sources of protein – but even the salmon was not as good as peanuts and pistachios.

I went around all the foods in my kitchen and I felt like my eyes had opened. I suddenly had a basis to found my dietary principles on. I was still eating a lot of processed and convenience foods, but I figured at the time that it was fine as long as I got my protein. However, I had noticed that I was struggling to get my five-a-day fruit and veg.

That was where I was at when my mum died.

Then my attitude to food was turned on its head even more.

Instead of eating for “taste” or “favourites” or “comfort” how about eating for nutrition? So, eat things that will enable you to get 45g of protein a day, eat enough things containing vitamins and minerals, get your 90g of carbs and 70g of fat. Ensure that the protein includes the right amounts of each amino acid, and that the fat contains essential fatty acids.

As long as you are doing that, it doesn’t matter how you eat. You can eat that as a meat eater, a vegetarian, a vegan, raw vegan, fruitarian or sproutarian (sorry, juicearians, if you even exist, it’s impossible to get all your nutrients from your specific diet).

When my mum died, and I was just eating vegetables, I began researching raw food diets because they have almost become fad diets. I did a series of articles on them, which explained what they all were and weighed up how easy it was to get each nutrient from each diet.

I then took that one step further and identified ten vegan sources for each nutrient, because I was sick of people saying that it was an unhealthy diet.

While I was researching all these different diets, I became very attracted to fruitarianism. I thought the ideals of the diet were beautiful, and reminded me of a renaissance garden of Eden type fantasy. Having researched it, though, I knew it wasn’t the healthiest diet to follow 100%. I know that some people do anyway, but on the other hand there are people who eat nothing but junk food – neither of these is optimal but it won’t kill you straight away, so people keep doing it. I felt myself changing inside. I felt that fruit was the answer. I had never really been interested in fruit before, so this was a revelation.

A typical fruitarian meal
A typical fruitarian meal that I ate.

So at the moment, I’m a 60% fruitarian, 40% vegan (cooked). For this reason, I eat breakfasts and lunches that are fruit and nuts. Some days, like proper fruitarians, I will graze throughout the day. Other days, I feel the need for a “conventional meal” so I prepare all my fruit and nuts and put it in a bowl to eat. It makes me feel like I’ve actually eaten, and is easier to keep track of what I’ve eaten.
Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve felt like I’m functioning at a much higher intellectual level than before – no, I don’t mean it’s made me smarter, I mean, I was struggling with processing power, my brain wasn’t processing things very quickly and was struggling to take in new information. Not only that, but I was feeling very tired through the day, pretty much four hours of tiredness, followed by four hours of wakefulness. Since I’ve been eating fruit for my daytime meals, these problems seem to have disappeared.

Another fruitarian meal
Another fruitarian meal that I’ve eaten

I’ve started eating fruits I never would have considered before – I always used to worry about buying fruit, because like many people, I would constantly buy it, eat a small amount, then it would go off, then I would throw it away. I got so mad at my wastefulness that I stopped buying fruit for years after a particularly bad incident with a bunch of bananas. Making a commitment to eat fruit during the day eliminates this problem because the fruit just gets eaten. I’ve gone from having no fruit in a week (just veg) to having four to six pieces in a “meal.” I enjoy food shopping a lot more and I finally feel like I’m getting enough of everything. I’ve also stopped skipping meals since I’ve been seeing fruit as a viable alternative to regular meals – before, I would often skip breakfast and lunch on the basis that I would look in the cupboard and feel like I just didn’t have the food I wanted to eat – but I didn’t know what food I was craving.

Another thing I really like, for why I skipped the raw vegan step entirely, is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment or cooking skills to be a fruitarian. Raw Vegans cheat a bit and use all sorts of weird and wonderful food processing techniques to make their food look and taste like “real food” whereas fruitarians just accept their food in the shape and size and flavour that it comes in, and eat it whole and unaltered. I really feel like it makes me connect with what I’m eating and where it came from in a way that raw veganism could never do for me.  I’ve found myself drinking a lot more water since I’ve started eating fruit, too, which generally improves my wellbeing.

I don’t think I am never going to be a full-time long term fruitarian, because I feel that other foods also have value, but I do enjoy a good fruit fest and think that if you’re having the same problems that I was, the addition of fruit and nuts to your balanced diet could be your answer.

[wellness] Are you getting enough vegan nutrients?

The Ultimate Overview of Vegan Nutrition

Having had a merry old Veganuary and nearly being at the end of Vegruary, I have been giving some thought to the things I eat and the quantities in which I eat them.

I renewed my pledge to eat vegan at the beginning of this year after doing some very in-depth research into food sources for all the different nutrients and making sure that I knew a) How much of each nutrient I needed and b) Where I could reasonably be expected to get this from on a day to day basis.  I do still struggle to get enough fat, but I generally get a lot of fruit sugar which converts to fat which should help me with the chronic underweight problem I have been struggling with for the last five years.  Two months in it feels like its helping.

As a female, I need the following nutrients every day (some of these vary from time to time depending on my needs and activity levels, and the US and UK figures didn’t match most of the time either so I’ve generally gone with the US figures as they’ve sounded more reasonable for a lot of things, but in some places I either used the UK figures or went with what I know has been working for me – eg protein is 5g more than the UK Recommended Daily Allowance because that’s what I need):

50 grams of protein.  This should proportionally come from specific amino acids which I’ve listed in the chart accompanying this article.  I get mine from lots of lentils (which also count towards your five a day – yay, but are totally lacking in essential amino acid methionine – boo), nuts, seeds and tofu (which is actually more of a treat than a dietary staple these days).  When I’m training for outdoor pursuits, I need more protein as protein = muscle.  When I’m growing my hair I also need more protein as protein = hair.  Protein in fact makes most of the things in the human body so you need loads of it to fix stuff and grow stuff.  Protein is made of lots of amino acids, which are the things in protein that your body needs in different amounts, so it’s not enough to eat protein – it’s got to be the right sort.

70 grams of fat.  This comes from oils such as coconut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil in the vegan diet.  It can come from olive oil as well, although you shouldn’t fry with it as it requires a fairly low temperature before the molecules break down and release free radicals.  Fat is where you get your essential fatty acids, however, so you do need some in order to get those, which are also called Omega 3 and 6, although you can supplement with linseed oil or flaxseed oil. UPDATE: Also nuts are good sources of fat (sorry for omission)!

90 grams of sugar (aka carbohydrates).  This should mostly come from complex carbohydrates such as starchy foods like pasta, rice (GF), potatoes (GF), with extra healthy points if it’s wholegrain rice/pasta.  I also like amaranth (GF), quinoa (GF), pearl barley and noodles.

18g of fibre (fiber, in American).  This is easy peasy as a vegan you don’t really need to think about it (unless you’re a juicearian but I’ve made my thoughts on that very clear).  All fruits and vegetables count towards this and you don’t need to faff around with All Bran or other nonsense because it’s in the plants.  In fact, my dentist could tell I was vegan a few years back by the wear on my back teeth because of having such a high-fibre diet.  I don’t worry at all about this one because I did track it for a while but almost everything I eat counts towards my fibre intake.

I also need the following vitamins:

Vitamin A: 700 micrograms (with an upper limit of 300 micrograms because vitamin A can cause cancer in long-term high doses).

Vitamin B complex: B1 (thiamine) 1.4 milligrams (upper limit 50 milligrams); B2 (riboflavin) 0.9 milligrams; B3 (niacin) 14 milligrams; B5 (pantothenic acid) 5 milligrams; B6 1.3 mg per day; B7 (Biotin) RDA/DV currently undecided by health organizations, should be sufficient in the average vegan diet, excessive supplements can cause unpleasant side effects such as acne, greasy hair, mood swings and water retention; B9 (folic acid) 1 milligram, although when I start trying for a baby I will need more and will supplement; B12 (cyanocobalamin) (no Daily Value or Recommended Daily Allowance established).

Vitamin C: 40 milligrams per day, no upper limit.

Vitamin D: This utterly depends, see my article on Vitamin D.  I aim for 10 micrograms which is what the US dietary guidelines state, even though the UK ones say 5 micrograms is sufficient.  Since I’ve increased my vitamin D intake, I have noticed a whole raft of problems such as fatigue and irritability have gone away and I’m more cheerful, energetic, and getting things done.

Vitamin E: 15 milligrams per day.  I don’t worry too much about Vitamin E because my skin tells me when I need to eat more Vitamin E, by drying out.  Then I crack out the avocados.

Vitamin K: 90 micrograms per day.  I regularly exceed  this though, and I make sure to never take Vitamin K and Vitamin E at the same time of day (I usually wait at least four hours between eating a meal with one and the other), because they fight each other for absorption and your body will preferentially absorb the Vitamin E, making you think you’ve got enough K when you haven’t.

And the following minerals:

Calcium: 700 milligrams per day.  Soymilk is fortified and tofu often is too.

Copper: 2 milligrams per day.  Should be easily available in the food I eat.

Iron: 18 milligrams per day because I’m female.  Men only need 8 milligrams.  Don’t ask me why.  The NHS also says women un the UK only need 14.8mg but that just goes to explain this anaemia epidemic they keep pretending isn’t happening, so they can sell you iron supplements which are pressed with pig gelatin (EWWWW.  Sidenote – the two supplements are ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulphate; ferrous fumarate are gelatinous and very non vegan and non halal and non kosher, ferrous sulphate are vegan, both can be bought over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription in the UK, they both provide the same amount of ABSORBABLE iron).

Magnesium: (this is a DIFFERENT mineral to manganese – look them up on the periodic table if you don’t believe me, Manganese is Mn in the transition metals and magnesium is Mg in group 2): 270 milligrams per day (UK) or 310 milligrams per day (US).  I go for the US figure.  This is easily acquired through vegan food.

Manganese: (this is a DIFFERENT mineral to magnesium – look them up on the periodic table if you don’t believe me, Manganese is Mn in the transition metals and magnesium is Mg in group 2).  This is very easily acquired through vegan foods so be careful not to overdo it.  I need 2 milligrams per day, but am safe up to 11 milligrams.  I did look into this and found that, in spite of what the NHS website says (it says the upper limit is 4mg), there are apparently no adverse effects shown from excessive manganese and the tolerable upper limit was set artificially on flawed data from a narrow demographic and small sample size anyway, and also it’s impossible to get less than about 6mg from the vegan diet because it’s in nearly everything we eat.

Potassium: 3500 milligrams per day.  Don’t overdo it.  It’s the same potassium that they drop into water and that burns with a lilac flame (remember high school science??), and turns the water alkaline, so be careful.  I will get an article written on the whole pH alkaline diet fad that has been circulating, but I need to look into a few more things before it will be ready.

Phosphorous: 550 milligrams per day (UK) or 1000mg (US).

There are other minerals but generally even most of the ones I’ve mentioned here will take care of themselves.

Here is my table of all the sources of these nutrients.  I tried to get up to 10 sources, but where there are less, it’s usually because there are poorer sources but you’d have to eat a lot of them.  For Vitamin D, the sources listed are all there are (unless you want to waste huge amounts of money on algae, which hasn’t been proven to have absorbable Vitamin D in it anyway).  Remember D2 is abundant in the vegan diet, but D3 is not, the daily value doesn’t distinguish between the two.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge. Click again on enlarged picture to zoom so it’s readable.

Obviously this isn’t a complete essay on the entirety of vegan nutrition, and your mileage may vary based on age and gender, but this table is the culmination of my research in this area so far, and I thought it might provide a helpful starting point for people who are struggling or who are wondering why they are craving chocolate all the time (see the amount of nutrients in cocoa powder to find out).  I will continue to research this area and write more articles on it.  Happy Vegebruary!

Vitamin K: The one everyone forgets.

Today I thought I would share an article with you about Vitamin K, the vitamin that everyone forgets because they never put it in multivitamins (because it’s expensive and can’t be absorbed when there’s vitamin E around).

Vitamin K is super-important as a vitamin. It’s fat soluble, meaning you need to eat it with a bit of fat such as coconut oil or olive oil in the meal to get it to absorb properly. It works very closely with vitamin D and calcium to contribute to bone health, but also plays a part in the blood system. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with getting the vitamin K into your diet, even though plenty of foods have a small amount of vitamin K in them.

Vitamin E vs Vitamin K:
The problem with getting the vitamin K that’s present in most foods, is that it fights with vitamin E for absorption, and only one of them can be absorbed at any one time. You need to eat foods high in vitamin K in different meals to foods high in vitamin E, because the higher the vitamin E value, the less vitamin K can be absorbed, and vice versa, making it no good to eat them together.

So where can I get Vitamin K?
Kale. Kale kale kale. Curly Kale is the absolute best source of vitamin K – just 100g cooked provides 768% of your Daily Value of vitamin K! With that much K getting into your system, there’s no way that pesky vitamin C can stop it getting absorbed! Sometimes I accidentally call vitamin K “vitamin kale” because they’re so closely linked.

Broccoli is another excellent source of vitamin K, with 97% of your Daily Value per 100g. However, kale is the absolute best plant source of vitamin K because broccoli has a lot of vitamin C (102% of your DV per 100g) so this will prevent vitamin K absorption.

How can I get Vitamin E as well?
You can still get all your vitamin E, just make sure your vitamin E- focussed meal is a separate meal to your vitamin K-focussed meal. It’s actually very difficult to NOT get your vitamin E requirements in any given day, given that the majority of nuts and seeds in our diets contain vitamin E, as well as the humble avocado – look up the nutrition facts for any given food so you can make sure your vitamin K meals don’t get eclipsed by vitamin E content.

What does Vitamin K do?
Reduces bruising, helps blood clotting, increases brain sulfatide action (so thickens the protective myelin sheaths around nerve cells – in studies in mice, a shortage of sulfatides caused paralysis and subsequently increasing vitamin K levels reversed the paralysis over several months), reduces nerve cell death (so protects against Alzheimers), stops unabsorbed calcium building up in the blood stream, thus preventing calcification of arteries, there’s also good evidence from Japan that it prevents post-menopausal osteoporosis.

Signs of a Vitamin K deficiency:
Bruising easily, including finding bruises you don’t remember getting, redness of skin, difficulty concentrating and tiredness. Long term vitamin K deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis and coronary heart disease.

What if I still can’t get enough Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is really important. It helps your blood to clot properly and prevents calcification of arteries. Without vitamin K, you can’t absorb calcium properly. If you aren’t getting enough vitamin K in your diet, a supplement is probably in order.

All vitamin K supplements are not created equal, however, as they can either be vitamin K2 or vitamin K1.
NOTE: Do watch out for anything claiming to be “vitamin K3” – it’s a toxic synthetic form of the vitamin which has been banned by the FDA, because in large doses it can cause hemolytic anemia and cytotoxicity in liver cells. Sometimes “vitamin K3” is called “menadione.” Either way, avoid K3 at all costs.

Vitamin K1 is a plant source, which we convert in our bodies to vitamin K2. Conversion to K2 is less efficient than directly taking in vitamin K2, so you will need more vitamin K if you follow a plant based diet. Vitamin K1 is a vegan source of vitamin K.

Vitamin K2 is an animal source, either as an animal slaughter or dairy industry byproduct, which is ready for use where your body needs it. It’s more efficiently absorbed, which is why vitamin K deficiency is unusual in our meat-centric society. If the packaging just says “vitamin K” and doesn’t specify, it’s probably vitamin K2, in which case, avoid it if you’re vegan or dairy free.

Additionally to the actual sources of the vitamin K, you need to check the other ingredients on the label to check for the usual suspects like “magnesium stearate” “stearic acid” or “gelatin” all of which are animal slaughter byproducts, unless the product is stated “suitable for vegetarians” at which point it’s safe to assume they’re vegetable magnesium stearate or vegetable stearic acid. There is no vegetable gelatin, veg*an things that do the same job have totally different names like pectin.

So there you have it.  Vitamin K is a very real and important vitamin that is most abundant in kale and broccoli.

parsley, courtesy of wikimedia commons.
courtesy of wikimedia commons.