For the Love of Quinoa – Indigo Herbs Review

After a week of unhealthy dinners it has been an inspiration to receive three huge packs of quinoa from the kind souls at Indigo Herbs, who asked me to review a few of their products on my blog.

Indigo Herbs are a family-owned business based in the alternative town of Glastonbury in Somerset, selling an vast range of superfoods, herbs, wholefoods, and even gift sets and tea. They have a formidable knowledge of how to create healthy, nutritious, plant-based meals, and are all about empowering consumers to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Quinoa has enjoyed a vogue in recent years amongst trendy metropolitan hippie types, and you can see why – the health benefits are well-documented and really quite extensive, as any foodie can tell you. Hailed as a superior alternative grain to couscous and bulgar wheat, it actually fulfills a different function in our diet similar to chard or spinach, and is technically a seed.

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This week I jazzed up my diet using the huge bags of quinoa varieties that Indigo Herbs kindly sent me to blog about.

Organica Red Quinoa Grains

Organic Puffed Quinoa

Organic Quinoa Flakes

Firstly, I used the red quinoa to create a lentil and quinoa feta salad. The product came in an air-tight resealable foil pouch that fits comfortably in my kitchen cupboards. I rinsed the quinoa and added to a saucepan of boiling water and left it to cook for 10-15 minutes until the seeds split. I combined it with cooked green lentils, added some chopped veg (red pepper, spring onion, cucumber) and some garlic and oregano to flavour, plus a generous crumbling of feta on top. I never now how to judge how much quinoa to use; it deceptively expands in water in the same way that pasta and rice does so I always end up making enough to feed a passing hungry squadron, but at least that’s lunch sorted for the next day. Helpfully, the packaging offers a serving suggestion of “use as much as you see it” – now that’s my kind of brand!

The puffed quinoa also came in the same attractive and practical packaging. If you’re not sure what puffed quinoa is or how it differs from the more recognizable varieties, basically it is created by a process of gently heating quinoa seeds until they pop, then allowing them to cool. The puffs can then be used in cereals, puddings, muesli or granola, so quite a versatile ingredient. I used the puffed quinoa to create these chocolate-covered, maple-syrupy protein snacks.

Finally, we come to the quinoa flakes, which are often used in baking as a gluten-free alternative, but also in cereals or granola or sprinkled on salads. I used them to make these pancakes and they provided a healthy addition of protein to this otherwise indulgent weekend breakfast treat. The batter held together really well and the quinoa provided a really tasty nutty flavour.

If you want to read a bit more about the history and health benefits of quinoa, have a read of Indigo Herbs’ page on the benefits of this amazing seed. 

I was really impressed with the quality and quantity of Indigo Herb’s quinoa range; the branding and packaging is thoughtful, with plenty of helpful nutritional information. Their products are organic and often vegan and/or gluten-free so this brand is an invaluable resource to those following a gluten-free or plant-based diet.

To summarise the extensive health credentials of quinoa:

  • Double the protein content of rice
  • Contains vitamins B and E
  • Source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, fibre
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids
  • High level of anti-inflammatories
  • Source of omega 3 fatty acids (promotes heart health)
  • Slowly digested carbohydrate

 

 

 

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Autumn skin and hair care

1st of September and the weather changes and I need to dig out my scarves and winter boots. Rain, wind, and it’s all got a bit gloomy. As seasons change, I find different skin products assemble themselves in my cupboards and I need something more substantial to get through the cold, dark months.

This is the time of year I started noticing my skin drying out and my hair getting dull. So I’m looking into some pre-emptive product buying as I’m bored of all my other stuff. These are a few that I’m looking at experimenting with; all vegan, all cruelty free and natural. I found the Alba Botanica range in town and sampled a few things so I’ve narrowed it down to these.

Alba Botanica Deep Sea Facial Mask

 

I’m really into clay masks. They’re pretty much the only type of mask that truly refreshes my skin. This one uses Chinese kaolin clay and contains aloe vera and a blend of sea enzymes (which sounds intriguing). I’ve heard great things about the Alba Botanica brand as a whole and have come across people who use only their products.

Alba Botanica Anti-Frizz Serum – Haiwaiin – So Smooth Gardenia

My hair is always a monster of frizz and nothing ever, ever seems to work. I’ve tried so much and virtually given up but the good reviews of this product have made me optimistic.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Hair Conditioner Coconut Milk

I do like my coconut products. They smell so great and natural and I dislike products that smell too floral or sweet so coconut is perfect for me – it has a certain neutrality. Coconuts are just amazingly beneficial for our health in general but coconut milk has so much in the way of nutrients and vitamins that it probably makes all the other fruit jealous. (Note: coconuts are not, in fact, a fruit; nor are they are a seed – they are a drupe. Whatever that is.)

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m so focused on cruelty free products? Am I just a self-righteous snob? Or is it actually really important – and easy – to make ethical consumer choices every day that make a difference? I don’t want to go into too much depth today and have already expressed my views here. There’s also a detailed article on the merits of going cruelty free on the Cruelty Free Kitty site that explains the position succinctly.

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Sandra The Orangutan And Her Human Rights

Buenos Aires Zoo has yet another high-profile resident, in addition to Arturo the depressed polar bear.

The Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) will soon make their case in court on behalf on Sandra the shy Sumatran orangutan, and they will use the habeas corpus law to argue that the great ape has been illegally detained and deprived of her dignity and liberty.

Sandra was born in captivity in Germany and transferred to the zoo in Argentina, where she has been living for the past two decades. Her enclosure is currently being renovated on the advice of vets who recommend more environmental enrichment. Activists argue that her shyness is a sign of depression, this others have argued that shy behaviour is typical of orangutans.

A court ruling in December granted Sandra the possibility of limited human rights as a “non-human person” because she has cognitive abilities. An Argentinian judge is set to rule this week whether or not Sandra’s human rights are infringed by her captivity in the zoo, and the judge will also consider whether her restricted freedom is a form of maltreatment.

If the judge rules in favour of Sandra’s release, she could be transferred to an animal sanctuary, which would offer her more freedom, though it is unlikely she will be released into the wild, having never set foot in the Sumatran jungle before.

Sandra will not be appearing in court, obviously, but I will keep you updated of developments. These are exciting times in the animal rights movement – Sandra’s possible release could pave the way for other primates to be granted legal personhood. I recently blogged about Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees fighting for their human rights.

You can read more about the Nonhuman Rights Project here.

Secret Gibbon Whispers Translated By Scientists

Since the 1940s, we have known that gibbons use a secret language to communicate, but only now, with ultra sensitive equipment, have scientists been able to decipher their unusual calls. This research could give us clues to the evolution of human language.

Lar gibbons, or the white-handed gibbon, are an endangered primate, usually found in Thailand, Laos or Malaysia. Every morning, the gibbon family gathers at the edge of its territory, and sings out a ‘great call’, a duet between the breeding pair, each pair exhibiting a unique variation of the family song.

Lar gibbons can produce sounds so soft that they can’t be easily heard by the human ear. Scientists from Durham University have managed to record these calls by spending four months following them through the forests of North-eastern Thailand, and they have published their analysis in the BMC Evolutionary Biology journal.

The team found that there were different calls or ‘words’ for a range of predators, including leopards, tigers, pythons and eagles. The whispers even distinguished between different types of birds even when they were physically quite similar, such as eagle owls and serpent eagles.

The gibbons use over 450 ‘hoo’ sounds, and each ‘word’ or ‘call’ serves a different purpose in a specific context. This new research suggests that, according to the lead scientist, Dr Esther Clark:

…lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller.

You can listen to the lar gibbons’ call here:

What’s Wrong With Animal-Friendly Animal Products?

The ethical consumer cannot simply trust a brand claiming to be animal or environmentally friendly; we all have a responsibility to do a bit of research to make sure a product is as ethical as it claims.

If the ethical exploitation of animals is at all possible, then it must meet certain welfare standards. The RSPCA ‘Freedom Food’ label is one brand which claims to raise and slaughter animals in better conditions than the rest of the meat and dairy industry, and it distances itself from the evils of factory farming.

Hillside is an animal sanctuary located in Norfolk, which has conducted several investigations into Freedom Farms, and has uncovered evidence of animals suffering conditions as bad as, and sometimes worse than traditional farms.

The idea behind RSPCA monitored farms is a noble one, though it has been repeatedly shown to be a failed model. Freedom Food is a charity set up over 20 years ago to ensure that every aspect of those animals’ lives meet the high welfare standards of the RSPCA.

Freedom Food is thee only UK assurance and food labelling scheme dedicated solely to improving farm animal welfare.

However, Hillside has filmed the treatment of animals on various Freedom Food farms in the UK and found that those standards of animal welfare are simply not being met. Recent footage shows chickens living in desperate conditions, crammed into tiny containers, and left to suffer with untreated wounds. According to this report in The Mirror:

Many of the birds had lost half their feathers and clearly had painful leg deformities. The filthy shed floor was littered with corpses, some in an advanced state of decomposition.

The problem with failing Freedom Food farms is widespread, as this report into pig farming demonstrates. However, this is a brand that is not doing too badly compared with other so-called ‘ethical’ brands. A report in the Independent rated Freedom Food as second, with Soil Association scoring 9/10 in ensuring the highest welfare standards were met on its certified farms.

What you should about ‘High-welfare’ animal products

 The Freedom Food label does not mean ‘free range’. The RSPCA does not feel it necessary that broiler chickens ever experience the outside.

– Freedom Food birds reach slaughter weight within just 49 days; in the wild, it takes chickens around three months to reach adult size. Leg and hip injuries are common place on intensive farms, and they have also been seen on Freedom Food farms.

– Sows are still forced to give birth and suckle their young for around 4 weeks in farrowing crates, which are so small that they cannot move.

– Some ‘free-range’ labels claim that piglets are either ‘outdoor-bred’ or outdoor-reared.’ In both cases, piglets might be bred or reared outdoors for several months but they are moved indoors into fattening units, which are cramped and overcrowded, and provide no stimulation.

– ‘Organic’ means that the use of chemicals in animal feed is prohibited. Arguably, animals lead slightly better lives on organic farms, but male chicks are still gassed at birth and male calves are still shot because they are of no use in the dairy industry.

Animal Aid claims:

There is no humane meat. Animals’ lives are as
important to them as ours are to us and none go to
the knife willingly. Choosing organic, free-range or
Freedom Food over standard meat, milk or eggs,
continues to cause pain and suffering, and wastes
natural resources.

The Real Easter Bunnies

Spring has sprung, and, for animal shelters worldwide, that means the imminent arrival of hundreds of discarded bunnies in the weeks following Easter.

Rabbits do not obey the myths surrounding them: they don’t like to be handled by humans, they dislike being confined in cages, and, most annoyingly for homeowners, rabbits can chew through pretty much anything. They just don’t stop chewing.

When pet stores sell their Easter bunnies, the cute little creatures are small, fluffy and adorable. Hard for most parents to resist. But they grow, and, if, paired up with another rabbit, they breed. And breed and breed and breed. Like rabbits.

Many families give up on their Easter critters within weeks, and animal shelters are consequently overwhelmed. Buying Easter bunnies encourages bad breeding practices that result in a surplus of bunnies from consumers’ ill-conceived purchases.

80% of easter bunnies end up in shelters and those are the lucky ones – some families assume bunnies will be better off in the wild, so release them. However, bunnies are prey animals, and not used to the wild so they simply won’t survive.

Red Door Animal Shelter attempt to discredit the myths surrounding bunnies so consumers can make informed decisions before making an impulse purchase.

Last Ditch Attempt to Save Endangered Rhinos

A new conservationist project is underway in South Africa to airlift rhinos to safety.

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The project is being managed by Rhinos Without Borders, a new organisation with approximately $280,000 or crowdfunded money, which aims to remove rhinos from overcrowded areas in South Africa to an undisclosed location in Botswana.

Rhinos have been hounded to near extinction by poachers, and numbers have dropped dramatically from 16,000 in the 1970s to around just 4,000 today. White rhinos came dangerously close to extinction until a similar project rescued them and gave them a new home; now white rhinos number around 20,000 and they are a constant reminder both of the ever-increasing threat of poachers, and also of the success of relocation.

Poachers are drawn to rhino populations, despite the illegality of poaching, because of the growing demand in Asian countries for rhino horn. China and Vietnam are the main consumers of traditional medicine, which often uses rhino horns to treat a variety of ailments, despite the total lack of scientific evidence to support the efficacy of rhino horn.

In fact, because rhino horns are essentially made of hair, their medicinal properties are as effective as chewing your own fingernails.

Unfortunately, some communities in South Africa support poaching because it is a lucrative trade, so there is little governmental protection for rhinos. In Botswana, however, there is zero tolerance of poaching, and anyone found breaking this law can legally be shot and killed.

Drastic situations call for drastic measures and, with over 1000 rhinos killed by poachers in the last year in South Africa, rhino populations are reaching crisis point. Rhinos Without Borders intend to airlift 25 rhinos to safety this year, and relocate a further 65 in 2016. Conservationists hope that the new populations of rhinos in Botswana will establish large communities and save the species from extinction.

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