On the launch of her first cookbook, popular Irish food blogger INDY POWER reveals the inspiration behind her mouth-watering recipes for both body and mind.
Ever since I was tiny, I've been obsessed with food. My mum has always been an adventurous cook. She's half Japanese, so growing up, we ate all kinds of Asian food, from sushi and pickles to miso broths, kimchi and curries. That's where I discovered a taste for zingy flavours - citrus, chilli and vinegar (I actually love to drink vinegar neat from the bottle every now and then).
I started experimenting in the kitchen during Transition Year, testing flavours and greedily honing my palate. Around the same time, however, in my last two years at school, I began experiencing some real lows. I wasn't sleeping and felt uncontrollably sad or anxious for seemingly no reason at all. Exam stress (at the time, I wanted to study medicine in college) and hormones probably played their part, but it felt like something deeper. While I was experimenting with different dishes in the kitchen, I began to realise that your body can influence how you feel - not just what you do with it, but what you consume. Something instinctive made me examine the way I ate.
I continued to cook and bake, all the time, but I started researching nutrition and tweaking old favourites with more nutritious ingredients. I would look at each element in a recipe and if it didn't have something positive to offer in terms of nutrition, it had to go. I experimented with alternatives that would nourish my body as well as satisfy my taste buds. Gradually, I noticed that there were ?normal? foods that I never seemed to eat?any more - refined sugar, white flour - and I hadn't even missed the taste of them. What I did notice was that I felt better. I hadn't felt sad (without reason) in months; I'd stopped complaining endlessly about being bloated and the annoying bumpy skin on the top of my arms was smooth. And I had tonnes of energy.
It all started slowly. I researched a type of food and decided whether it was worth keeping and if not, I'd gradually make an effort to go without it and see how I felt. If I felt better without it, I eliminated it. But, just as crucial was incorporating health-boosting ingredients into my diet; more avocados, salmon, nuts - ingredients that were naturally nutrient-rich and great for both the gut and brain.
Gut health is essential. A compromised gut means that harmful toxins and bacteria get into the bloodstream, and the body reacts with inflammation. Chronic inflammation overburdens the immune system and makes us vulnerable to everything, from cancer to Alzheimer's disease and depression. Gut permeability is determined by the food we eat and the balance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Chemicals, gluten and sugar weaken the gut and foster bad bacteria. I learned how important it was to feed the gut with foods that help the good bacteria flourish. After years of experimenting with food, I now happily eat a delicious diet that is also free from processed foods, gluten, refined sugar and with minimal dairy. I have never felt happier.
I started my blog, thelittlegreenspoon.com, to help inspire others to experiment with their food and to show them how exciting healthy food can be and how easy it is to eat healthily without depriving yourself. The focus is on making each recipe easy to follow and simple to make and most importantly, really flavourful and tasty. If healthy food tastes amazing and is easy, then it's accessible for everyone. That's what I want to show and that's why I wrote my book - it's about making people fall in love with healthy food, and it's full of everyday recipes that are quick and simple. My personal food journey has transformed my life and taught me so much; it's pushed me to study nutrition and allowed me to turn what I love into a career.
For more healthy recipes, both sweet and savoury you can buy Indy's new book, out now (?22.99)