Hold on honey

Honey 

noun  hon·ey  \ˈhə-nē\

Honey: a sweet food made by bees, causing a lot of controversy for vegans

Is honey vegan?

Yes it’s true, it’s one of the most controversial issues among both vegans and non-vegans alike. As a vegan I avoid honey and bee products. This makes sense. After all, honey is an animal derivative and vegans do not consume animal products. To many, veganism is an ethical philosophy which also involves being mindful of industry practices. Of course it’s a personal preference, as some disagree and believe that avoiding ingredients like honey can  harm the vegan movement by appearing too pedantic.

So, does the farming of bees really hurt animals and the environment? Are bees even animals? Are vegans being ridiculous? What is the big deal?

Before forming a view, it’s important to know the honey basics- how a bee is actually an animal, how beekeeping is nothing more than another form of factory farming, and how our crops really get pollinated. Below we answer some popular faqs in this guide about honey!

Don’t bees naturally make honey as a result of pollinating? Isn’t this good for the environment? 
Yes, and no. The first and most important thing to know know about honeybees is that they are not native to most countries. The honeybee’s origin goes back to Asia around 300,000 years ago and they were rapidly spread across the world.

Not surprisingly, most countries around the world have a lack of – or no – laws for bee farming. The global trade in bees has created a spread of diseases around the world. And even if this can be controlled in regulated bee farms, like other resistant organisms, there is a resistance to pesticides.

Another important environmental factor to consider is that most countries import honey. This means honey is mass produced from factory farming environments which is a big unethical no.

About 85% of honey in the UK comes from Vietnam, China, Mexico, Australia, and Argentina. Germany, the world’s largest importer of honey, gets theirs from Argentina, China, and Mexico. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the impact on the environment from transporting managed bee colonies back and forth across the country pollinating crops.

What about free range, local, and organic honey?
If you are after free range, local, and organic honey, you would have to find a hive from native bees. Of course, this in itself sounds very unideal and surely would be disturbing a bee habitat. Not to mention, you’d get stung because bees don’t willingly give up the food that they work very hard for and need to survive.

If you’ve now steered away from honey – luckily for you, finding a replacement isn’t so bad. There are heaps of vegan alternatives and although some are more comparable to honey, all of them are derived from plants meaning they are ethically welcoming for everyone!

Vegan Alternatives

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the agave plant. Agave is sweeter than honey with a milder flavour. And, like honey, there isn’t much to miss as agave nectar comes in a variety of styles each with its own distinct flavour. Darker nectar’s have a caramel taste, while the lighter range is more comparable to honey.

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Agave Nectar retailed at $15.00

Coconut Nectar

Sourced from coconut palms, coconut nectar has a sweet, tangy, taste with surprisingly no coconut flavour. It is high in amino acids, vitamins and minerals – a bonus! The nectar also is low-glycemic.

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Coconut nectar retailed at $14.95

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is commonly known to the avid pancake lover. The syrup is derived from the sap of maple trees. The trees store starch which is converted to sugar and then maple syrup – pretty neat huh!

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Maple Syrup retailed at $7.95

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from exposing rice to enzymes that break down starches to sugars. Who would’ve though rice could result in a sweet caramel flavour?

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Brown rice syrup retailed at $13.95

With these alternatives who’s to say you’re going to miss honey! If you’d like to support bees and love honey please consider buying alternatives instead of buying beeswax products, honey, or its derivatives

What’s all this talk about ‘kombucha’?

With today’s forever changing trends it’s hard to keep up with the latest hype. Don’t worry – by the end of this post you’ll be a Kombucha expert and it’ll be like you were never out of the loop.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea loaded with antioxidants, probiotics and B vitamins. Its origin derives from China, in particular the Qin Dynasty with proven health benefits from the thriving  health conscious communities of the 1970’s.

How is Kombucha made?

The ingredients are simple. It’s tea + water + sugar + a SCOBY. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a SCOBY is – we’d attach a picture if it was aesthetically pleasing. But to keep you satisfied, a SCOBY is a fermenting culture. In other words SCOBY= symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.

5 SIMPLE STEPS TO MAKE KOMBUCHA:

  1. Steep tea in boiling water with sugar, then cool
  2. Sterilize a container
  3. Add a SCOBY or a fresh, bottle of kombucha with live cultures
  4. Cover and let it sit for 7-30 days
  5. Enjoy

Hold those questions. I hear you.

What are the nutritional benefits?

As mentioned, kombucha is known for being a great source of healthy bacteria which is good for the intestines! It’s loaded with B vitamins and detoxification properties to cleanse the body, boost antioxidant levels  and support a healthy immune system.

What does it taste like?

Some say they’re a fan from the get go, others are hesitant about the sour taste. We all loved it from the beginning. It’s refreshing and you can immediately feel the probiotics working!

Sugar? Wait… I thought I’m supposed to be avoiding that.

Yes, the process of making kombucha requires sugar, but the sugar is needed to feed the SCOBY for the fermentation process. If you’re still uncertain, the kombucha is fed, not sweetened with sugar. Once the ideal fermentation process is complete and the kombucha is ready to drink there are minimal amounts of sugar left.

Does it contain alcohol or caffeine?

If kombucha is left to ferment for an extensive period of time the higher the alcohol content will be. Most kombucha brands that you can buy are alcohol free. If you are interested in making it yourself just be cautious to get the derived result you are after. In regards to caffeine, the fermentation process alters the molecules so it is nowhere near as strong as black tea.

Where can I find kombucha?

No stress here! If you’re not so keen about the idea of handling your own SCOBY, these days you don’t have to make your own – you can find kombucha at many supermarkets, health food stores and cafes.

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Try experimenting with fruit slices to change up the flavour

Tip: When shopping for kombucha, read the ingredient label and stay away from high sugar flavours.

3 food documentaries that will change your views

EVERYBODY HAS TO EAT.

If there are three things that are going to save your life when it comes to eating healthy, it’s: 1. educating yourself; 2. keeping an open mind; and 3. taking action.

Health is wealth, and being conscious about what you put in your body will directly impact the kind of being that you are on this planet – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The global food industry is so complex and yes – it’s up to you to know what you’re putting in your body and where it’s sourced from. After all, what you eat fuels your mind and heart. This isn’t a TED Talk, but awareness is just the beginning. And although supermarkets make everything look appealing and colourful – there is truth behind what you choose to buy and eat. The question is…are you aware?

Let’s address why you’ve probably avoided watching food docos:

  1.   YOU FIND DOCUMENTARIES TEDIOUS TO WATCH.

Hey, this might not be you. But it is someone out there. No these aren’t horror films, but in a way they are horrifying. When you watch the docos that we recommend, we have strong views to stand by the message and the story. They are good. No, they are great! They are unforgettable and motivational. You will stand up feeling like you want to make a change – and that’s great. After all, we’re all about making a change and conscious and ethical thinking.

2.   THEY ARE GOING TO SHOW SCARY CLIPS OF ANIMALS BEING SLAUGHTERED – and you don’t want to see this

Yes, some of the documentaries below will address inhumane animal treatment, but you can always close your eyes when those parts come up, OR you can actually get real with what happens to the food that hits your plate. But don’t stress, this isn’t Lucent, Blackfish, Cowspiracy, or even Earthlings. And if that’s not reason enough, perhaps the more personally direct approach is for you. Stressed-out  and poorly treated animals are making you unhealthy!!! Want to know why? Then watch the docos fully.

3. YOU DON’T WANT TO BECOME A VEGETARIAN AND CAN’T BARE TO THINK ABOUT VEGANISM.

I guess we owe some credit to you for this one. You’ve made it this far – but who says these documentaries will rule your life? You are a grown adult, fully capable of making your own decisions about how you choose to live each day and about what you eat. These docos are not about going to extremes. They are about sharing stories that expose what is happening in our world. The real extreme lies in the outcome. How will these documentaries shape and change you to consider your consciousness about the world around you beyond yourself?

1. Food Inc.

Overview: Food Inc. is about the American food industries from the seeds that are planted, to how it reaches your plate. This is one of the early documentaries that fronted a massive movement in the United States and beyond.

This doco immediately changed our views on how money is spend on food  – from what we purchase as individuals to where we spend our dollars.

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2. Vegucated

Overview: Vegucated follows three meat loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Moved by weight loss and health, they uncover the hidden sides of the animal industry that make them wonder whether solutions offered in this doco go far enough.

Vegucated undoubtedly compels viewers to be more compassionate towards humans and animals – and ultimately take a pass on eating meat.


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3. A Place at the Table

Overview: This doco is produced from the same creators as FOOD, INC., except this doco unfolds the reality about the hunger epidemic in the US. We would be lying if we said kids of today knew where their next meal was coming from. If you know the feeling of being hungry think about watching this film – it’ll make you think again.

As we continue on the path to eat healthy, you learn pretty quickly about the injustices of our food system and how many people go hungry in our own backyard. Vegucated makes viewers think twice about how easy it is to be vain about our health. This one comes with a warning, be prepared to be inspired to make a difference.


iTunes
Google Play

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It’s time to get over your fears and preconceived notions. Break out your plant-based snacks and kickback to a doco. We got you!

The plant-based guide to the gym

If you’re someone who wants to become vegan – or perhaps you are a vegan who is into fitness, you might need to change what you eat, but you won’t need to change what you do in the gym. An important tip to remember is that yes, vegans can source their protein from plants and can successfully develop muscle. It’s entirely possible to get leaner and stronger on a plant-based diet. It’s time to read up, visit the fridge, and lift some weights!

1. Set Your Goals

As with anyone with a fitness focus, it’s important to set your goals. Do you want to bulk up and build muscle? Do you want to lose weight? Are you already muscular but want to cut some fat? Do you want to build endurance and keep your heart healthy? How many days a week can you and do you want to work out? I know it’s a lot to consider but it’s important to think about what you want to achieve. Remember: An hour is only 4 percent of your 24-hour day.

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2. The Right Nutrition Plan

With any body transformation, what you eat is half the battle — seriously:

  • If you’re eating to get big and strong, eat a lot.
  • If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories and eliminate heavily processed foods.
  • If you’re lifting, keep protein filled foods handy and don’t be afraid of carbs!

Most workout programs will include a suggested nutrition program. Online calorie calculators or apps such as My Fitness Pal can help you get a good understanding of what your body might need. The good news is if you have to restrict your calorie intake most plans are vegan orientated, you’re already halfway there!

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3. Modify 

Unfortunately, if you’re aiming to gain muscle it’s more than likely that standard workout meal plans will almost always include animal derived products. Luckily, you can make some easy substitutions to keep your workouts going.

A good tip is to look out for whey protein (whey = milk) and substitute it with a vegan protein powder. Most powders have a rice or pea protein base. I currently have a balance between switching up with Prana On Protein, SunWarrior Raw and Amazonia’s Raw Protein. I find switching up between proteins helps your body not become immune to an individual protein base and helps keep your tastebuds satisfied. Another helpful tip about being vegan is developing a mindset to take note of artificial colours and additives in most workout and protein supplements. Once you start looking out for what’s vegan and what isn’t you’ll be surprised about the hidden nasties.

You can also substitute meat recipes with plant-based options. If you’re transitioning to veganism or are a fan of mock meats – they are comparable to the real thing in taste and are still loaded with protein. Another bonus is that the most popular foods for muscle growth – oats, rice and sweet potato are already vegan! You’ll have no trouble reaching your macros!

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Prana On Protein retailed at $49.00-$189.00.

4Don’t Let the Meatheads Drag You Down

The most important tip of all! There are always going to be those who doubt you when it comes to eating a plant-based diet. Gaining muscle and strength on a vegan diet may seem challenging but just remember why you chose to eat the way you do. For me, it’s about animals, ethics and the environment. There is so much suffering going on everyday in the industries. I don’t think an animal needs to have a poor quality of life, be slaughtered or exploited for any gain of mine. The health benefits are just a bonus!

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The guide to alternative milks

When choosing an alternative milk with the most nutritional benefits you have to address what your health goals are. Are you after a milk with a high protein content because you don’t consume enough protein based foods? Is your desired outcome to lose weight or gain weight – which will help you choose a milk based on your calorie intake. Or are you merely after an option that would be taste equivalent to animal-derived milks for baking or your daily coffee?

Four common alternatives

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it overwhelming when you reach the longlife milk isle only to stumble your eyes upon a variety of choices. Not to mention the choice in the fridge section or at your local health food store. There’s a range of alternative milks and it’s growing. I’ve narrowed down the four most common choices, how they compare taste and nutrition wise, and lastly, a few tips on what steps you can take next.

ALMOND MILK:

First up is almond milk! If you’re late to the conversation, almond milk is a very versatile and popular dairy free alternative. One of the most common questions you’ll probably get with this one is – ‘milk from nuts? Do you spend your night milking nuts – how does that work?!’

Taste: Almond milk is the most preferred dairy-free milk alternative because of its smooth flavour. In particular, unsweetened almond milk has very distinct similarities with its mild   taste.

Nutrition: Although almond milk has a low calorie content, it’s not a high source of protein and most added vitamins are processed. Be mindful that some almond milk brands do contain lecithin to create a thick consistency.

Make it yourself: Yes, it’s true! Almond milk is quite easy to make, particularly if you have a busy lifestyle – simply blend almond butter with filtered water. You can pick up almond butter at most health stores.

Tips:

  • look for ‘unsweetened’ almond milk
  • low calorie
  • low protein
  • similar calcium to dairy-milk

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SOY MILK:

Do you remember that time when soy was  popular? It was almost as if the trend at the time was to drink soy – and if you didn’t you didn’t fit in. You were especially cool if you were seen drinking a ‘soy latte’.

Taste: Soy has a smooth texture and has a slight bean aftertaste that may seem overpowering when consumed on its own. Soy is very versatile and to its benefit, works well with coffee.

Nutrition: Soy milk is similar to dairy-milk when it comes to protein and calcium. Soy is, however, a controversial food and a common allergen that your body may not welcome. It’s important to be aware that consuming an excessive amount of soy phytoestrogens (plant-based hormones) may counteract with natural hormones. And just like other alternatives, soy milk contains starches and emulsifiers to extend its shelf life.

Make it yourself: Making soy milk is a slightly longer process as the soybeans must be soaked overnight. It is often common to mix in edamame beans as they are slightly more nutritious. Add 1 cup of soy and edamame beans to 3 cups of boiling water for 3 minutes. Pour the beans and water in a blender and add 2 cups of filtered water. Blend, then strain and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Tips:

  • look for organic non-gmo brands
  • low calorie
  • high protein
  • high calcium
  • low in sugar

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 COCONUT MILK:

When it comes to coconut milk there is a difference between coconut milk commonly found in the longlife isle and the coconut milk that comes in a can. Currently coconut milk beverages are more popular than ever.

Taste: Coconut milk has a rich and creamy taste and is ideal for adding to coffee or cereal.

Nutrition: As it is naturally soy and gluten-free coconut milk is often a good choice for those with food allergies. With a good amount of fat but not a lot of protein it is a less popular milk to drink every day. Once again, it depends on what your desired outcome of the milk is – if you’re after an alternative milk based on taste this is your go to.

Make it yourself: Pour 4 cups of water into a blender and and 2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut (fresh is even better). Strain the coconut milk and add 4 cups of water to a blender with the remaining strained pulp. Store in the refrigerator for a week.

Tips:

  • look for ‘unsweetened’ coconut milk
  • low protein
  • high saturated fat
  • rich in fibre

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RICE MILK:

I know. You’re thinking, you eat rice –  you don’t drink it?

Taste: Unsweetened rice milk is a sweet alternative that has a strong texture.

Nutrition: Rice milk is one of the mildest milks in terms of food allergies. Unfortunately, the alternative milk does come with its negatives. It’s common to find a high sugar and carbohydrate content, as well as a low level of protein. Similar to other alternative milks, starches are also commonly added for shelf-life purposes. This isn’t a great source of everyday nutrition, although if you do prefer to experiment, be sure to avoid a high sugar content.

Make it yourself: It’s also something quite easy to make on your own. Boil 1 cup of brown rice with 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of agave nectar/rice syrup. Once the rice is cooked, blend with 4 more cups of water. Strain the rice and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tips:

  • cholesterol free
  • high calorie
  • low protein
  • low calcium
  • high sugar

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HOW TO SHOP FOR ALTERNATIVE MILKS

  1. Compare the refrigerator section and the long-life milk aisle. Refrigerated versions of milks tend to have a reasonable expiry date and shorter life, which means less artificial ingredients.
  2. It pays off to read the information written on the packaging and look at the ingredients. If it’s loaded with words you can’t pronounce it’s best to leave it. Making your own might be the better option.
  3. Always opt for unsweetened and unflavoured versions. Many alternative milks come in a variety of flavours. Sure this works wonders with attracting buyers, but it may mean there are added flavours and colours.

My current favourite plant-based milk is Bonsoy and you can find it at most supermarket retailers and health food stores for around $5.

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My top tip is to always check nutritional labels for their sugar content.

Best of luck with your journey!