VEGANISM NOW: Chai Time with Loui Blake

I had the pleasure of speaking to Loui Blake on my CHAITIME series last week – Loui is the founder of the UK’s largest plant-based restaurant Erpingham House, launched Kalifornia Kitchen and is a partner in the Eat By Chloe restaurants. He’s an award-winning marketer and entrepreneur and all-round incredible human!

We started our conversation by discussing our health and accountability – there is a lot of well-deserved appreciation going out for NHS workers, from Thursday evening claps to appreciation posts on social media, both of which have been a great boost for frontline workers and of course well-deserved. But it is almost like we are living in a paradox, Loui pointed out, as we often forget the impact and pressure that we place on hospitals for lifestyle-related illnesses. We have the ability to control our lifestyle choices and the food we consume, so if you really want to support frontline workers, now is the time to use it.


Health aspect of veganism

A whole food, plant-based diet is the best way to achieve optimum health. Simply increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you consume, alongside a shift away from sugary, processed food is a great place to start, and now more than ever before is the time to ‘control the controllables’ and support our society – what we eat, our portions and our lifestyle.

Many athletes have spoken about their personal experience with a plant-based diet and the positive impact it has had on their recovery period. When you train, your muscles become inflamed, so it’s important that the food you eat does not further compromise your muscles by causing more inflammation, which in turn slows down recovery time. Foods like diary and meat have been found to cause inflammation in the body, whereas plant-based foods have been found to hold anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as essential phytonutrients that help to improve the recovery of muscles.


What sparked your interest in vegan food arena?

Growing up I was healthy, I ate relatively well and played lots of sports, but I definitely took health for granted. At about 24 I then suffered with chronic fatigue, I had no energy or motivation and it gradually started affecting work, which was when I started looking for ways to feel better and get back to work.

After a lot of research, I decided to go plant-based for a month and saw such incredible changed both physically and mentally. This really sparked an interest in helping people and educating people on the benefits of a plant-based diet, which organically resulted in holding talks for businesses that were looking to go vegan.

I found that many restaurants were pushing vegan food but often lacked a driving mission, which in turn led to a lack of love going into food, cross contamination and potentially compromised products. They were also only targeted towards people who are already vegan. So, I wanted to make something that was accessible for everyone.


Do you think coronavirus will have an effect on veganism and cooking at home?

There are so many vegan cookbooks at the moment – and people now more than ever before have the time and resources to cook. I also think that some people, who are living in a compromised body at the moment due to lifestyle choices, are quite stressed as there are indications that they are more vulnerable to catching the virus, and this is forcing people to look at the role food has on our health.


Many say that being healthy is expensive – how do you tackle this question? 

This all stems from what you perceive to be healthy. Of course, if you go into your local supermarket and spend £2.50 on an energy ball, full of coconut oil and sugar that is marketed as healthy, then it will be expensive. But if you buy vegetables, lentils, rice, quinoa and fruit, it’s no more expensive. Even so, if it is more expensive, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to pay the extra bit of money to feel healthier and have that extra energy.

You don’t need to buy everything that is trending as healthy at the moment, just simply look in your pantry and use spices like turmeric and cumin, both of which are full of so many health benefits. A good way to think of it is to eat lot of colourful, natural foods. Smoothies are a great way to do this all in one go.

It’s also to do with how much food we eat. We have been told that we are supposed to eat breakfast lunch and dinner at certain times, with a snack or 2 in between, rather than eating intuitively and in tune with our bodies. Research into longevity has shown that people who use intermittent fasting and eat smaller portions tend to live longer.


What about supplements?

If you do find that you are deficient in anything then you might want to look into supplements, but don’t rely on them. People who do follow a plant-based can be deficient in B12, but this is easy to supplement. Do get tested first so you aren’t taking supplements that you don’t need. Fibre is also massively important because it supports your digestion. If your intake of fibre is low, you may get constipation, which can lead to many issues.


What is your favourite morning ritual right now during lockdown?

I have maintained my usual routine of meditation, goal setting, gratitude and yoga, but I also added in breathwork and have been following Instagram lives to do this, which has been great!


What helps you relax?

Meditation for me is the foundation of everything. We spend time working on our bodies, being careful about what we are eating, but not enough of us work on our mental health. 15 minutes in the morning or evening is all you need. Breathwork is amazing too!


What are you most looking forward to most when everything returns back to normal?

Human contact! I am still working digitally but we are social animals and we thrive in social situations, so I’m looking forward to getting back to that.


One thing that made you smile recently?

I rescued my plant yesterday and brought that back to life!