Plants are having a moment. Pretty much every hip London cafe or restaurant now offers a variety of delicious and inspiring vegan options, and nutrition blogs singing the myriad health benefits of adopting a plant-based diet have never been more popular. We caught up with Ella Woodward, the brains and beauty behind the phenomenally successful (and our favourite of the genre) green-eating blog, Deliciously Ella.
You started your blog as a way of dealing with a quite rare disease you have, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, and are now in remission. What has the journey been like and what has been the most surprising outcome?
In 2011 I was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, or PoTS, which is a rare illness that effectively breaks down your autonomic nervous system: the system that controls everything that is meant to happen automatically in the body – so your heart beat, digestion, circulation, immune system etc. As you can imagine this had a pretty devastating effect on my life - I literally couldn’t walk down the street, I slept for 16 hours a day, was in chronic pain, had blackouts, never-ending heart palpitations, unbearable stomach issues, constant headaches and the list goes on. It was anything but fun and I was bed-ridden ninety-five per cent of the time!
I was put on conventional medication and steroids for about six months, but sadly they didn’t make much difference and I was still in bed most of the time, so I decided to try something different and began researching natural healing, which is how I came to change my diet. Overnight I gave up refined sugar, gluten, dairy, anything processed or refined and meat. It was a huge change from someone that lived off a delicious mixture of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream, mountains of Cadbury’s Caramel chocolate, lots of fizzy pick-n-mix, some pesto pasta here and there, and millions of jars of peanut butter and strawberry jam eaten with a spoon!
It took about eighteen months to go from essentially bed-bound to healthy and whilst it was the best decision I’ve ever made it wasn’t always easy. There were absolutely times where I felt it wasn’t working, which was incredibly frustrating, but gradually I did heal. I think the thing I was most surprised about was how quickly my lifestyle and food habits changed. I’d never eaten well beforehand and really disliked fruit and vegetables, and I was also a total carnivore. So when I gave up gluten, dairy, sugar and meat in a bid to heal myself I always assumed that as soon as I could, I’d eat them all again, but now I can’t ever see it happening. I’ve never felt as good or had more energy, and I actually wake up craving green things!
Your recipes are a riot of colour, nutrition and deliciousness. Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration normally comes from my own cravings, it’s normally all about what I feel like eating and then I find a way to make it healthy!
Which recipe would you recommend someone try first who’s a little unsure about a diet free from animal products and sugar?
I think it’s all about starting slowly, just making one small change a day is amazing - adding in one new serving of fruit or veg a day is fantastic, some sweet potato wedges or guacamole make an insanely delicious addition to any meal and they’re such an easy place to start. Whizzing up a smoothie in the morning is incredible too as it always starts you off on the right track for a positive day, while giving you an abundance of goodness and energy.
At Chinti and Parker, we advocate a ‘buy better, buy less philosophy’. The idea being that you save up and buy a great quality product you love, which will last a long time, and which is also extremely versatile. Is there a healthy culinary equivalent to this mantra or certain items that are worth investing in?
I couldn’t agree with this statement more! Investing in what you put into your body is the most amazing thing that you can do as it’s investing directly into your health and happiness. Spending a little more money on things that will get you glowing and a little less on ready-made snacks and drinks will make the world of difference.
And lastly, you’ve got the healthy eating part down, but do you have any other vices?
I don’t really have many vices, other than a serious sweet tooth. I think my body and taste buds have changed as to what they think is super sweet – so I crave sweet potato brownies and dates, rather than Haribo! The other thing is that I don’t see this way of eating as a diet, I eat more now than ever before. I love food and plan my day around my meals, it’s just that eating this way you can eat in total abundance and still look and feel the way that you want to!