Another environmental alert!

Soya beans- extract from WWF 

‘Around the world, there is a surging demand for soy—the “king of beans.” Soy is a globally traded commodity produced in both temperate and tropical regions and serves as a key source of protein and vegetable oils. Since the 1950s, global soybean production has increased 15 times over. The United States, Brazil, and Argentina together produce about 80% of the world’s soy. China imports the most soy and is expected to significantly increase its import of the commodity. 

Soy is pervasive in our lives. Not only are soybeans made into food products like tofu, soy sauce, and meat substitutes, but we also eat them in the form of soybean oil and soybean meal. Soybean meal is widely used as animal feed, so we humans consume much of it indirectly via our meat and dairy. Soybeans also reach our tables as oil—which represents around 27% of worldwide vegetable oil production. While its most common oil-based form is table oil, soy is increasingly used for biodiesel production. 

Without proper safeguards, the soybean industry is causing widespread deforestation and displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples around the globe. To ensure that soybean expansion does not further harm natural environments and indigenous communities, WWF is encouraging the development of better production practices. We call for transparent land-use planning processes and promote responsible purchasing and investment policies.’ 

The following short video was also on a BBC documentary several months ago. This was the first time I knew about the environmental destruction soya bean production was causing, together with the human misery which ensues. I was shocked. Blue sky Eco café will strictly monitor where soya is used in its ingredients and will try to eliminate its use.


This ancient grain is beginning to gain recognition for its health benefits and ability to adapt to different recipes. In a similar vein as kamut, or bulgur wheat, farro makes a good alternative grain addition to several dishes.  It does contain gluten however. 

High in Fibre 

A very high level of fibre in farro makes it heart-healthy, good for digestion, and beneficial for preventing blood sugar or insulin spikes and dips 

Good Source of Protein  

High in B Vitamins 

Farro contains multiple B vitamins, especially vitamin B3 niacin, which is important for metabolic health and breaking down or converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins from the foods we eat into energy. 

Good Source of Antioxidants 

Most people think of vegetables or fruits as being the only high-antioxidant foods, but unprocessed grains also provide antioxidants. 

Provides Iron, Magnesium and Zinc 

 Iron is important for preventing anemia and helping to improve energy, while zinc is crucial for brain function, Magnesium has numerous benefits — preventing muscle cramps and PMS symptoms, helping you sleep better, helping with digestion — many people actually have a magnesium deficiency and don’t even realise it. 

Farro is a perfect addition to salads, stews, soups. Soak for 20 minutes, drain, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 mins, or until tender. Drain well. 


Buckwheat is a pseudograin, and not from the same family as wheat so is therefore suitable for coeliacs. It’s nutritional value is extensive as any search on google will tell you, but here are just a few

  • Rich in magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese. These minerals help reduce cholesterol and protect our immune system
  • A great source of protein and lysine, an amino acid that helps digestion and is important in plant-based diets
  • Because it’s a seed, it contains flavenoids, plant pigments with phytonutrients that boost vitamin C and act as antioxidants
  • It can help control blood sugar levels because it is high in soluble fibre

Recipes always recommend rinsing the grain thoroughly before cooking, if you are using the groats (‘grains’). This month I have used the buckwheat groats in place of rice, both in a hot savoury dish and in a salad. I also use buckwheat flour often in place of plain wheat flour for baked items such as muffins and banana bread. Buckwheat is the main ingredient of French pancakes (crepes) and I have used it successfully in pancakes myself.

I have also read that it makes good porridge but I have yet to test it! Soba noodles are also made from buckwheat.

Brussels Sprouts

“Brussels sprouts!” I hear you say, “who likes those!” and I felt exactly the same way. Either boiled or steamed I never liked them until …. I tried them roasted. Halved and tossed in a little oil and roasted either on their own or with other root veg and I discovered they were delicious!! Taste for yourselves in the salad dishes this month and then read about their health qualities!

In 75grams of cooked Brussels sprouts you get

  • Calories: 28
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fibre: 2 grams
  • Vitamin K: 137% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C: 81% of the RDI
  • Vitamin A: 12% of the RDI
  • Folate: 12% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 9% of the RDI

Brussels sprouts contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may reduce cancer growth, decrease inflammation and promote heart health. They are high in vitamin K, a nutrient important for blood clotting and bone metabolism, and vitamin c

Brussels sprouts are a good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation, insulin resistance and cognitive decline

In short, Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making them a nutritious addition to your diet.

Give them another try… roasted or raw, thinly sliced as an addition to salad.


Spelt is an ancient grain that has been grown in Somerset since the start of the Iron Age. It has a unique gluten structure which makes it easier to digest than modern wheat.

It has a delicious nutty taste, not dissimilar to barley. High in protein and fibre, spelt is a good source of slow release energy. So much so, that the Roman army called it their marching grain.

Spelt in common with other nuts, grains and seeds, contains phytic acid, a unique natural substance which can impair the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. Soaking the grain for several hours or overnight can reduce phytate content substantially.

According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, while pearled barley and spelt are “whole” in the sense of not being rolled, broken or ground down, they are not “wholegrains” but refined: the “pearling” that gives them their name is the process of polishing off the outer bran layer. Soaking is not necessary therefore.

Spelt can be used in soups, stews and salads. It also makes a delicious risotto.


Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah was an important, sacred crop for the Incas. There are three main types: white, red and black. This is the nutrient content in 185 grams of cooked quinoa

  • Protein: 8 grams.
  • Fibre: 5 grams.
  • Manganese: 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA.
  • Folate: 19% of the RDA.
  • Copper: 18% of the RDA.
  • Iron: 15% of the RDA.
  • Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
  • Potassium 9% of the RDA.
  • Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
  • Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin) and vitamin E.

This comes with a total of 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat. It also contains a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Quinoa is much higher in fibre than most grains and is naturally gluten-free. Quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol – potent plant antioxidants. Quinoa is high in protein compared to most plant foods. It also contains all the essential amino acids that you need, making it an excellent protein source for vegetarians and vegans. The glycaemic index of quinoa is around 53, which is considered low. However, it’s still relatively high in carbs. Quinoa is very high in minerals, but its phytic acid can partly prevent them from being absorbed. Soaking or sprouting degrades most of the phytic acid and increases their antioxidant levels even further.

Easy to cook

  • Put 2 cups (240 ml) of water in a pot, turn up the heat.
  • Add 1 cup (170 grams) of raw quinoa, with a dash of salt.
  • Simmer gently for 15–20 minutes.

It should now have absorbed most of the water and have a fluffy look with a mild, nutty flavour and a satisfying crunch.

Find many healthy and diverse recipes for quinoa online. I have used it to make Tabbouleh instead of the usual bulgur wheat.