By Holly Barry, @HJBarry
From the 15th – 21st of May the nation’s diet will be turning green for National Vegetarian week. It’s an excellent opportunity to try out tasty new recipes and sample fresh ingredients from local produce. There are hundreds of health benefits to vegetarianism including improved moods, lower blood pressure and weight loss. The money-saving potential of a meat-free diet has been widely reported and you’d be helping out the environment, as animal agriculture contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the trains, planes, cars, lorries and boats put together.
National Vegetarian week is therefore a great way to do your bit for your community, your pocket and the world. But if these reasons aren’t doing it for you, skipping out meat for a week is also a great way to improve niggling and uncomfortable beauty problems like dry skin, weak and flakey nails or brittle hair.
FOR YOUR NAILS
Because of a lower intake of protein, one potential downside to vegetarian week is weakened nails, however this is easily avoidable. In fact Vegetarian Week is actually a great opportunity to improve your nail health.
There are a number of animal free, protein rich foods available at your fingertips, including beans, soy products, nuts and seeds. For a colourful meal that’s rich in protein why not try a twist on a Spanish classic with a red and white bean and basil frittata. If you fancy something sweet for breakfast then cookie dough overnight oats are a great way to go. For those that can handle a little heat, try spicy bean burgers, stuffed full of vegetarian protein.
For those that change their polish regularly, prefer dark colours or use harsh removers, side effects may include brittle, broken or stained nails. But once again nature triumphs as there are a lot of readily available, natural ingredients to combat your manicure dilemmas. Coconut oil makes an amazing, non-abrasive moisturizer, whilst soaking your nails in lemon juice for just ten minutes will make them stronger and whiter.
You could also opt for one of the many great hand and nail creams that are organically sourced and natural. The Body Shop stock a hemp hand protector for extremely dry skin, whilst the Green People Help at Hand cream works well for the more sensitive amongst us.
FOR YOUR SKIN
When you’re up against the elements, keeping skin healthy can feel like a daily challenge. Cold weather, sun damage and air pollution can all cause or exacerbate skin problems like blemishes, clogged pores, dryness or breakouts. If you struggle with any of the above, your diet may be a contributing factor as dairy products, sugar, and coffee can aggravate poor complexions. It so follows that one of the most effective ways to give your skin a fighting chance on the outside, is by maintaining a clean and nutritious diet that takes care of the inside.
For food that purifies the skin you only need look to your fruit basket. The humble apple contains malic acid that promotes a firm and youthful complexion, whilst bananas contain potassium that is hydrating, and has a high vitamin A, B, and E content- all anti-aging.
Contrary to what you might think, a lot of beauty products can be detrimental to healthy skin, containing ingredients such as alcohol, parabens and acrylics that clog and suffocate pores. But all is not lost, as fruits also work well as part of natural, homemade skin products.
If you have dry or blemished skin, papaya is great as an exfoliator, cleanser and moisturiser. Exfoliate your skin with the inner seeds and pulp for around a minute. To make a facemask, blend the papaya with 2 tablespoons of honey or yoghurt, apply to the face and leave for 20 minutes, then wash off with lukewarm water. If soaking up the sun has dulled or damaged your skin, a strawberry facemask is the way to go. Mix strawberry pulp with a little water, massage it into the skin and wash off after 20 minutes or so. This brightens and helps repair skin.
Understandably, it can be hard to locate the time to make natural skin remedies. If this is the case, opt for vegetarian products for the week instead. For foundation, Nars offers one of the best vegan products on the market with its All Day Luminous Weightless line. MuLondon stocks a gorgeous array of organic moisturisers and cleansers, but if it’s lipstick you’re after, Inika provide a spectrum of bold and creamy colours, proving guilt free doesn’t have to be dull.
FOR YOUR HAIR
By increasing the fruit and vegetables in your diet during Vegetarian Week, the abundance of varying vitamins will no doubt rejuvenate and strengthen your hair. It’s been scientifically proven that cutting out high levels of sugar in favour of natural foods does wonders for your locks. When you consume large quantities of sugar your body releases insulin to regulate the influx. This has a detrimental effect on your hair as insulin damages blood vessels, making it more difficult for oxygen to reach the scalp. As a consequence hair struggles and weakens.
Luckily, there are plenty of foods that are great for hair. If it’s long hair you’re after, complex carbohydrates, such as bulgur wheat, parsnips, legumes, fresh fruit and whole grains will encourage growth. To stave off those greys, try eating foods rich in vitamin B12 like fortified cereals such as All Bran. For the healthiest of hair, good levels of iron are essential. Although red meat is the most iron rich food, there are a number of really effective plant-based substitutes including beetroot, almonds, figs and dark leafy greens like spinach.
For a refreshing meal that will optimize hair growth, this Quinoa salad with feta, beetroot, and pumpkin is perfect. If you’re after something a little more wholesome, try this spinach and tofu cannelloni . A great idea for a lunch that will enrich your locks is Bulgur wheat and spinach fritters, make your own chutney for an extra kick.
There are lots of effective hair care products out there to keep your hair looking gorgeous guilt-free. Kevin Murphy’s Angel.Wash is an all-time favourite for recovering delicate and damaged hair. To keep your hair in place and in good condition, Andalou Naturals Argan Stem Cell hairspray should be your go to. If you’re looking for an alternative to the usual abrasive hair dyes, Lush has a range of henna hair colours, free from animal testing and sensitive to the skin.
Ultimately, taking part in Vegetarian Week is about more than simply cutting out meat. It’s a means of reassessing your lifestyle, getting reacquainted with your body and helping the planet in the process. In a time where over 7 million tons of food is wasted every year in the UK yet produce is flown thousands of unnecessary miles to reach us, going veggie for a week promotes awareness about where your food comes from and how it is sourced. So what is there to lose? Get on board and go green for the globe in Vegetarian Week.