Aloe vera - nature's skin soother

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The healing properties of aloe vera have been known a long time. The ancient Egyptians called it the 'plant of immortality'. Aloe vera is a cactus plant that secretes a clear gel. Among its many healing benefits is its ability to act as a skin soother when applied topically.  

  • If you have sunburn (please DO NOT let this happen to you!) aloe vera's anti-inflammatory properties will help calm your skin.  
  • Aloe vera can soothe skin allergies and rashes.
  • The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties of aloe vera mean that it can help with acne and rosacea. Please see the following link for more information on rosacea It promotes new cell growth helping to prevent scarring associated with severe acne and rosacea. Aloe vera makes a great moisturiser for oily skin as it is not greasy and this too can help with acne.
  • Aloe vera can help reduce wrinkles when applied topically or taken internally according to manufacturer's instructions. It would seem that aloe vera prevents collagen breakdown and encourages the formation of new collagen. Collagen provides the 'scaffolding' for your skin which gives your skin its youthful elasticity.
  • Stretch marks can be reduced by aloe vera. 
  • For men aloe vera makes a great aftershave to relieve shaving rashes and cuts.
  • If you have insect bites aloe vera can relieve the stinging. Also please see the following link on using essential oils as insect repellent

As always check with your doctor before using especially if you are on any medication or have any allergies.

Keep your skin happy
Janet x

Meatless Monday: Braised baby beets with barley and squash

Monday, 27 July 2015

Did you know that you can eat beetroot leaves? They are good for you too as they are a good source of fibre, vitamin C and folic acid. Eat them raw in salads or cook in the same way you would spinach. 

Serves 2 

You will need
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp rapeseed oil 
4-6 baby beets, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
150g barley
'Neck' of medium squash, peeled and cubed
Beetroot leaves
50g walnuts

Rinse the barley and place in a saucepan. Cover with 500ml water and bring to the boil. Add the squash and return to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender (around 50 minutes) then drain.

Meanwhile fry the onion in the rapeseed oil. Add the garlic and continue until the onion is soft. Add the beetroot chunks and balsamic vinegar. Cover with water and simmer for around 30 minutes until the beetroot is soft and the liquid reduced.  

To serve place the beetroot leaves in bowls. Add the barley to the bowl and top with the braised beetroot. Top with walnuts.

Janet  x

Please see also for the health benefits of eating beetroot and a link to my Beetroot and chocolate buns with coconut cream 'frosting' 

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 26 July 2015

This week's yoga practice is to help prevent and relieve shoulder pain caused by arthritis in the shoulder joint. It may also be suitable for other shoulder conditions once the initial healing has taken place, but check with your doctor.

In the second of my series on taking your yoga off the mat, I look at how we can practice satya (truthfulness) in our lives. 
There are also guidelines for a meditation to discover your own truth.

The 'M' word Part 2 - coping with 'brain fog', and memory impairment.

If you are wondering why you are experiencing 'brain fog' it is because your hippocampus, that part of your brain associated with memory is sensitive to oestrogen levels. Rest assured though that once the menopause is over, you will return to your pre-menopause sharpness. In the meantime there are several ways you can help reduce 'brain fog' and memory impairment.  
  • Make sure your diet is rich in omega 3s which protects brain cells. Antioxidants in fruit and vegetables also protect brain cells from free radical damage which may cause brain cells to die.
  • Keep your mind active - learn a language, do crosswords etc. Although some brain cells do die as we get older, we can form new connections between brain cells to compensate to a large extent.
  • Exercise - the hippocampus is also sensitive to lack of oxygen. By exercising you can give the oxygen concentration in your blood a boost as well as improving your circulation to bring that oxygen rich blood to your brain. Yoga chest openers and inversions are good for this too.

  • Inhaling rosemary essential oil (use an infuser according to instructions) has been associated with good memory for hundreds of years.  To read more on this please see this BBC News article
  • Use props - write lists, have a designated place to put your keys etc
  • Stress can actually cause the hippocampus to shrink so take steps to get on top of stress with yoga, Tai Chi, relaxation techniques and meditation. Did you know meditation can increase the amount of grey matter in your brain? To start practicing meditation, find a comfortable seated position, close your eyes and simply watch your breath without trying to change it in any way. If any thoughts come into your head (and they will!) gently but firmly bring your attention back to your breath. Continue for several minutes. Practice this daily to gain the benefits. 

Please see also 'The M-Word Part 1-Diet to help ease your way through the menopause'-

Stay sharp,
Janet x

Organic gardening update - harvesting the beetroot

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Some of the beetroot is ready for harvesting as baby beets and we have left some to grow into full size. Beetroots are a wonderful source of folic acid. When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, I craved beetroot and ate it every day. At the time I could not understand my craving. It was only later that I learned the importance of folic acid to the development of a healthy foetus. Beetroot is also packed with antioxidants including vitamins A and C which help prevent degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer. 

Need to detox? Beetroot stimulates the liver's detoxification process and its fibre content helps prevent the build up of toxic waste in the bowel.

There are many ways you can use beetroot. Try it roasted with garlic as a side dish. Next Monday I will be doing a recipe using beetroot, but for now why not try the Beetroot and Chocolate buns with coconut cream 'frosting' in the next blog post. Please see- 

 Happy organic gardening!

Janet x

Beetroot and chocolate buns with coconut cream 'frosting'

Makes 8-10

You will need

70g dairy free spread
15g stevia
Egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg
125g rice flour
3 tbsp cacao
120g beetroot, peeled and chopped
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp unsweetened soya milk if necessary
Cream from can coconut milk (Tip-use the rest in a smoothie)

Place the beetroot in a blender. Cover with water and blend until smooth. Sieve to remove excess water.
Cream the spread and stevia. Add the egg substitute made up according to directions. Add the flour and baking powder, cacao, beetroot and vanilla, and mix. If necessary add soya milk to form a dropping consistency.  
Place the bun cases on a baking tray and divide the mixture between baking cases. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Allow to cool and top with coconut cream. The beetroot may stain the frosting but I think that looks nice! 

For the health benefits of eating beetroot and more ways to use it please see -

Janet x 

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Meatless Monday: Walnut crusted tofu with sweet potato wedges

Monday, 20 July 2015

Serves 2
You will need

1 pack firm tofu
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp rapeseed/organic olive oil + extra to drizzle potatoes
50g walnuts piece
40g breadcrumbs
2 medium sweet potato

Cut tofu into rectangles and marinate the tofu pieces in the tamari for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile blend the breadcrumbs and walnut pieces in a blender to make a smoothe mixture.  
Dip the tofu in oil then top with some of the walnut mixture, pressing it down with the back of a teaspoon. Place on a baking tray.  
Scrub the sweet potatoes well and cut into wedges. Place on a baking tray and place the tofu and sweet potatoes in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for around 30 minutes until the wedges are soft and the tofu topping crispy. Serve with a salad.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 19 July 2015

In this week's video I focus on balancing and strengthening the muscles that affect the knee joint to relieve knee pain.

Ahimsa means non-harming. In this blog post and video I explore how practicing ahimsa means caring for yourself, for others and for all beings as well as the environment. The blog post includes a loving kindness meditation.

The 'M' Word Part 1 - diet to help ease your way through the menopause

I cannot believe that I have been writing this blog for over a year now and not mentioned the menopause. I was diagnosed with 'early menopause' at 39 years of age. What was really happening was my body was suffering the effects of repeated bouts of pneumonia (see 'About Me') during which my weight had plummeted . What followed was several years of HRT. Eventually I said 'enough' and stopped taking it. As my health and weight improved, I discovered I had not had an early menopause at all!! 

By the time I did actually experience the menopause, I was passionate about taking care of my health and the only noticeable effect was an increase in migraines. Some ladies however suffer miserably with the menopause and the effects can last up to 10 years. The effects are due to the levels of oestrogen falling BUT do not despair there is a great deal you can do to ease your way through, starting with your diet.  

One of the miseries of the menopause is hot flushes.  These are made worse by caffeine in tea, coffee and even chocolate, alcohol and spicy foods. Caffeine also may contribute to insomnia, another symptom of the menopause especially if you have it after lunch. Try herbal teas or coconut water instead. Including phytoestrogens in your diet can help too including soybeans, oats, flaxseed and walnuts.  These are weakly oestrogenic, that is they mimic the effect of oestrogen.

Once we hit the menopause, loss of calcium from our bones accelerates because oestrogen helps prevent the loss of bone material.  For this reason it is important to take steps to prevent osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become thin and fractures become more likely. Olive leaf extract helps increase the osteoblasts that make bone. See
You should also make sure your diet includes calcium rich foods.  If you are vegan and do not have dairy foods this means fortified soya milk, tofu, some vegetables such as broccoli and white beans. Foods that provide vitamin D should also be included because vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium. Vegan sources include fortified soya milk and mushrooms. Your body can also manufacture vitamin D if your skin is exposed to natural daylight for around 15 minutes each day. Avoid fizzy drinks containing phosphoric acid which accelerate bone loss. Support your bone health with an alkaline forming diet. This means eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes and keeping red meat, poultry, fish and grains to a minimum. Too much salt also accelerates calcium loss.

If you can keep your blood sugar stable, you can help reduce fatigue, anxiety and mood swings which are also symptoms of the menopause.  This means avoiding refined carbs such as sugar, white flour, white bread and white pasta in favour of slow release carbs such as brown rice, quinoa etc.  It also means not going too long without food, so have some healthy snacks available.

Many women worry about weight gain caused by the menopause especially on the tummy and it does seem that oestrogen helps with weight control because of its effect on metabolism. BUT it is not inevitable. Focus on a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and low fat sources of protein such as tofu, beans and lentils or if you are not vegan add poultry (no skin) and fish. Also include exercise in your daily routine. It is imortant to control weight because without the protection of oestrogen women's heart disease risk rises after the menopause to that of men.

Another concern for many women is that their skin will become dry and wrinkled after the menopause. Include foods rich in collagen. See I'll be talking more about this soon.  

A further fear is memory loss after the menopause, something else I will be talking more about soon. Make sure your diet includes omega 3s.  Please see

Hope this helps
Janet x

Organic Gardening – harvesting the blackcurrants

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

This year I have made a quick no added sugar blackcurrant sorbet. Simply wash, top and tail your blackcurrants allowing around 100g per serving then freeze. When the blackcurrants are frozen place in a blender. Add around 90ml water for 4 servings. Blend then add stevia to taste and its ready!  

Blackcurrants are rich in antioxidants such as vitamins A and C and anthocyanins which may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. They are also a source of fibre and they are low in calories so you can enjoy them guilt-free!

If you would like to see our organic gardening journey so far this year, please see the links below

'It's spring, the organic fruit and vegetable year begins!' -

Have a great summer!

Janet x
Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Meatless Monday: Red Kidney Bean Fritters

Monday, 13 July 2015

In the spring, the fields around where I live began to turn yellow.  It seems that rapeseed is becoming a really popular crop, at least here in Yorkshire. It also seems to be making the bees very happy, which makes me happy, as the decline in bees is a concern for our planet. In July and August the flowers turn to pod and are ready to be harvested to make rapeseed oil. Rapeseed oil has a lower saturated fat content compared to olive oil and is rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 so good for cholesterol levels, brain and heart. Another advantage of rapeseed is that it does not denature easily at high temperatures to produce harmful free radicals. It has a light, delicate, slightly nutty flavour so why not try give it a try.

Serves 2-3

1 can red kidney beans, well drained
1/2 onion, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp sweetcorn
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 tbsp spelt flour
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
Rapeseed oil for shallow frying

Place the onion and garlic in a blender.  Add the carrot, sweetcorn, and red kidney beans. Lightly blend so that some beans remain whole. Stir in the chilli flakes, flaxseed and flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add spoonfuls of the mixture.  Flatten with the back of a fish slice.  Fry 3-4 minutes on each side until crispy on the outside, soft in the centre.  

Serving suggestion-with a salad, guacomole and pittas.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 12 July 2015

If you suffer from chronic headaches, you may be interested to learn how yoga can help 

Many of us can feel a little irritable in summer. You can learn how Ayurveda, yoga's sister science can help you feel more balanced through diet, breathing techniques and yoga

Essential oils for summer

Saturday, 11 July 2015

While I was on my summer break, it occurred to me that many of you might be glad of a more natural insect repellent. Rightly so, since commercial insect repellents often contain DEET which can cause skin rashes and neurological problems.  

You may wonder why some people are plagued by insects in the summer while others are hardly bothered by them at all.  When I was younger and used to get bitten all through the summer, my mother used to say, 'It's those B vitamins you take'. I don't think so if anything they may help prevent insect bites!  Each of us has a unique 'scent' and it just so happens that some people's scent is more attractive to insects than others.  

Insect repellents made from essential oils help mask your natural 'scent' and replace it with one that is not attractive to insects.  You could try the following to enjoy the summer in peace

100ml of distilled water or boiled and cooled water
20 drops lavender
15 drops citronella
Pinch sea salt to help mix the oils with water

Place the water in a spray bottle.  Add the essential oils and salt.  Shake well before use.
If you like to walk in long grass you may also want to add 10 drops geranium essential oil and reduce the lavender to 10 drops.  This will help keep ticks which may cause Lyme disease away.

Other essential oils you may find helpful are peppermint, tea tree, thyme,lemon grass, or peppermint.  You may want to experiment to find what works best for you.  

Please note try a patch of skin 24 hours before use as essential oils may cause skin allergies in some people. Also they are not intended for young children, people who are pregnant or suffering from any health problem. Consult an aromotherapist for advice. Do not use the spray near your eyes.

Other advice to avoid being bitten
Cover your arms and legs when walking in the countryside
Check for ticks after your walk.  
Get immunised if you are visiting tropical countries where mosquito borne diseases prevail. In these countries essential oils on their own are not recommended as an insect repellent, you will need to seek advice from your travel clinic.

Have a happy summer!

Janet x

It's strawberry season!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The strawberries are here!  Think of strawberries and you are reminded of sunny, summer days, and Wimbledon where 28,000 kg of these sweet, luscious fruits are eaten each year.

Not only are strawberries delicious, they are good for you too.  Bursting with antioxidants such as vitamin C they help protect your body from the aging effects of free radicals and help boost immunity.  They are also rich in anthrocyanins, flavonoids which are very powerful antioxidants protecting against many degenerative diseases such as heart disease. Quercetin in strawberries is an anti-inflammatory. Full of fibre, strawberries prevent constipation and build up of toxic waste in the gut. BUT they are in the 'Dirty Dozen' list of foods so try to eat organic strawberries where possible. 

Delicious on their own, with soy yogurt or maybe try these 'Strawberry shortcake sundaes'. Banana and strawberry flavours go well together and this banana ice cream is so simple to make but 'creamy' and a perfect alternative to ice cream for vegans. 

Strawberry shortcake sundaes

Makes 4 sundaes
You will need

4 large bananas, peeled, cut into pieces and frozen (Tip - pop it in the freezer the night before you are making the sundaes).
1-2 tbsp sweetened organic soya milk
Punnet strawberries

For the shortcake
150g rice flour
5 tsp stevia + extra to sweeten strawberry sauce
1 tsp baking powder
25g dairy free spread
75ml sweetened organic soya milk

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the dairy free spread and rub well into the the dry ingredients.  Add the milk and mix until the mixture comes together.  Turn onto a lightly floured chopping board and shape into a round between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.  Transfer to a greased baking tray and bake at 200 degrees in a pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes.  Cool then cut into bite size pieces.

Take half the strawberries and blend or mash into a sauce.  Add stevia to taste.  Cut the rest into bite size pieces leaving 2 to halve for the topping.

Blend the frozen bananas with 1-2 tbsp soya milk and assemble immediately.  Layer ice cream, shortcake, strawberries with the sauce then repeat.  Finish with a dollop of ice cream and a strawberry half.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell