Hello Veganuary

Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people worldwide to try a vegan diet for the whole of January. During the 2019 campaign, more than a quarter of a million people took part in this challenge.

Why the vegan diet?

There are many reasons why someone should be vegan. Most people do it to try to lower animal suffering and slaughter at farms, but there are also environmental reasons and on top of it vegan diet has many health benefits.

For example, if you go vegan today, 6 months from now, you will have saved approximately:

  • 198,000 gallons of water 💦
  • 5,400 square feet of rainforest 🌲
  • 7,200 pounds of grain 🌾
  • 3,600 pounds of CO2 🏭
  • 100 animal lives 🐷

If you have been thinking of being vegan, then taking part of Veganuary is great way to start and challenge yourself.

Photo credit https://uk.veganuary.com/

Fun fact!

At EpicZen all staff members are vegan including founders Ivo Aulik and Ivana Vyravcova.

They answered some of the questions about the vegan lifestyle:

What are the 3 main things you would recommend to someone who wants to educate herself on how vegans adjust their lifestyle from the regular western diet? 

  1. Familiarise yourself with vegan foods first. Many people think that vegans only eat raw carrots and salad leaves. The reality is quite contrary, vegans eat everything that the rest of us eat, just without the meat or dairy products. It is easier to be vegan now, than ever before, as there are so many substitutes for meat, so you won’t have to really give up anything. If you learn how to cook delicious plant-based, whole food meals, then we promise that there is no way that you ever want to go back to old ways again. However, it may take some time to get your menu fine-tuned, so be patient!
  2. Learn and motivate yourself by watching documentaries and read books. Movies such as “The Game Changer”, “Cowspiracy”, “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives” (all available on Netflix), will help you to understand why it is important for everyone to eventually give up meat and dairy products. For us was the book “The China Study” that sealed the deal.
  3. Understand that going vegan doesn’t mean that you eat automatically healthy. If you eat only McDonald’s chips, then technically you can call yourself a vegan, but your engines won’t be running for very long. As for everyone, a balanced diet and a healthy diet is key.

What has been the most positive result of veganism?

Good karma!

The general belief is that vegans do not get enough nutrients or protein due to foods they exclude from their diets. Based on personal experience, is it easy to track all your nutrients on a daily basis as a vegan? 

By coincidence, Ivo had a “Thriva” blood test done just a few days ago. Before that, we were speculating that probably his B12 will be low as this is very common among vegans. By surprise, all his nutritional levels were superb. Also, the protein levels were showing maximum.

Worries about the lack of nutrients in vegan’s body are not usually justified. Although meat products are very nutritious, we need to go back to basics and understand, where do the animals that we eat, get those nutrients from? The answer is very simple: from the same stuff that vegans eat… Do not forget that the meat we eat is those days so heavily processed that it is questionable, how much nutritional benefits we actually get? However, what we can be sure of is that meet products do come with a heavy dosage of carcinogens that is cancer’s starter kit.

Do you need to plan your menu ahead much more compared to the times when you were not vegan? 

Vice versa, it feels that since we started the plant-based, wholefoods diet, everything is more simplified.

How do people generally react after finding out you being vegan? Have there been times when it was difficult for you to explain it to someone because they were so against it?

We are not “activists” vegans, we eat plant-based food not because someone told us to do so. Hence, we are not very loud about that. If someone asks about our diet then we answer their question, but we won’t try to change their ways. Everyone has to change at their own base and only when they want to! Surely there are many vegans who disagree with this as the planet cannot sustain the animal agriculture. However, we need to be realistic about how we change peoples’ views. We have many friends that have followed us on this journey, but they have done it only because they see how easy it is for us and how delicious meals we eat. Pushing the guilt buttons on people won’t do any good.

People do not only go vegan due to health benefits but due to the fact that they do not want to support the animal industry which often harms animals. What do you think are other reasons to go vegan?

Animal agriculture is the biggest source of CO2 and Greenhouse emissions. It produces more than all the transportation systems put together. We mean all the cars, lorries, airplanes, large cruise ships, etc, etc. More that 80% of all the farmland in the world is used to produce food for animals and not for humans; therefore, billions of hectares of forest have been destroyed including Amazon rain forest – and all of this to feed the animals that we eat. Manure that is produced by this is killing wildlife in our rivers and oceans, not to mention the colossal health hazard that millions of people are forced to face on a daily bases. Our planet is in breaking point, but we could easily change that if we could make the change which is so simple yet scared by so many. If our children’s future is not good enough reason to give up the animal products, then we don’t know what is…

Do you think you will ever see a period of time where the majority of people go vegan?

Although the last few years has shown many positive changes, in the world perspective, things are only getting worse. As the human population is growing at such a fast rate, for every 1 person that goes vegan, 100 meat-eaters have been born. Yet, every one of us should change the world by changing ourselves first. We are staying optimistic that soon we cross the tipping point and the people will see meat-eating as unpopular and disgusting as smoking. Nevertheless, if this won’t happen, then sooner or later we will be forced to start eating plant-based foods, as the climate won’t let us spend all our resources on feeding animals. We hope that the world won’t see this day anytime soon!

What is your favorite vegan food?

For Ivana: Al dente cooked spaghetti, served with Bolognese sauce and (Linda McCarthy’s – meat-free) meatballs, topped with nutritional yeast flakes.

For Ivo: Oven-baked marinated crispy Tofu stripes, with wok cooked okra, broccoli, Romero peppers, and noodles, in Madras curry sauce.

Do you miss any non-vegan foods?

Very rarely we get cravings for fish, yet our mind always changes when we are walking into the morgue section of the supermarket.

We encourage you to try a vegan diet for a month or swap one day a week for plant-based food. We don’t need a handful of people having a perfect vegan diet. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.


Winter Wellness Tips


Winter Wellness Tips

There truly is something about the change of season that can put you in a funk. The colder temperature and fewer hours of daylight make it hard to stick with your normal routine. When your body does not have the sunlight, it is not uncommon to feel down or sluggish.
Here are some lifestyle and diet tips for winter wellness: 


The best way to prevent catching a cold or any other sickness is by washing your hands with soap and warm water. You learned it in the nursery, and it all still applies.Proper washing removes the germs from your hands, so they are not able to enter your body through eyes, nose, or mouth, which we often touch without even noticing. It also prevents the spread of germs to objects or food that others would then touch or eat. Hands should be washed before eating and preparing food, after using the restroom, and upon returning home from being out in public.


It is hard to stay motivated to exercise during the cold and dark months, but it is important. Moderate exercise increases the circulation and flow of blood that carries immune cells throughout the body, supporting your body’s immune system during winter. It is also shown to reduce stress.


Sleep allows your body to rest, restore, and rebuild. Studies show that those who do not get enough sleep have high levels of inflammation, which preoccupies your immune system. It is tempting to stay up late and binge-watch Netflix, but sleep should be your first priority.


Eating during winter does not have to be boring and vitamin deficient. Keep carbohydrate and mucus-forming foods such as white bread, pasta, and dairy to a minimum and fill your plate with dark leafy greens, winter squash, citrus and pomegranate, which are in season.

These fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, which increase your energy.


Both your immune system and mood depend on vitamin D. Because vitamin D is made in your body after exposure to sun, it is common for people to become deficient in vitamin D during winter months. Ask your doctor for a blood test to see where your vitamin D levels are.


Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin well known for its role in supporting a healthy immune system. Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress. Because your body cannot make vitamin C, it must come from the foods you eat every day. Many fruits and vegetables supply this vital vitamin. Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts and kiwifruit, among others.


Mushrooms – are one of the only foods that contain Vitamin D, which is critical to your immune system. A 2006 study found that the beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that is part of the soluble fiber found in mushrooms, had potential anti-inflammatory activity, which may help protect the body against disease. Mushrooms extracts may also stimulate different cells of the immune system.

Garlic – Whole garlic contains a compound called alliin. When garlic is crushed or chewed, this compound turns into allicin, the main active ingredient in garlic. Regularly eating garlic may help prevent the common cold or the flu. If you do get sick, eating garlic can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you recover faster. These compounds have been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses that cause the common cold or flu.

Green vegetables – It turns out that green vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, kale are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly. 

Brightly colored vegetables – Carotenoids such as beta-carotene are important antioxidants that aid in immune system function. Carotenoids are present in bright yellow, orange vegetables. It is important to get a variety of vegetables of different colors because various types of carotenoids are thought to work together to strengthen the body’s immune system.

Fermented foods – Research suggests that consuming fermented foods may boost the immune system. According to various studies have shown that regular consumption of fermented foods can help with fighting bacteria, reducing inflammation and increase antioxidant activity.

In case you still get a cold, you can try these easy steps for a quick recovery.

1. Avoid mucus-producing foods such as dairy and sugar

2. Drink plenty of fluids: water, teas, soups

3. Get some extra help from supplements like vitamin C, Olive leaf extract, Echinacea, Probiotics

4. Add some garlic to your food 

5. Rest!!! Your body needs extra energy and time to fight the virus.

PS! Please see your GP if your symptoms persist.

Kick that anxiety!

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If one may trust NHS’s statistics, then it appears that only 5% of our population have an anxiety disorder. This is not a bad figure at all; hence, we shouldn’t treat it as a significant problem – right?

By working in the health shop, I see real everyday people who have a severe anxiety disorder, or other symptoms, that are connected to anxiety. It is important to remember that the people who visit health shops have already some degree of understanding about well being, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. So if half of the people with this mindset have the anxiety issues, then what about the ones who live in the darkness of wellbeing? By relaying in this logic, please forgive me if I come across a little sceptical about the “5%” claim by NHS.

The real problem lies in the fact that having anxiety in our life, becomes a sort of “Status Quo”. It is now standard to feel this way. One may even feel slight guilt if the feeling is absent for a moment as this can be translated to; not doing enough. Our lives have become constant battles in the war of nonsense, where we genuinely believe that if we meet the next deadline, or solve the next issue, then everything will be calm and splendid again, like it was before; no matter that we can’t remember when was the “before”, nor how did it feel like. We are living in a society where everyone believes that being successful means having to sacrifice our peace of mind.

So are we doomed?
Not at all. The good news is that it is so much you can do! Below I share some of the advice that if followed, can indeed be one of the essential steps that you have taken in your adult life, in order to turn the battle against the anxiety around to your favour.

1. Analyse your day to day life and the feelings that it creates.
If you feel the constant rush and adrenaline shots that are released in your body, then it is time to accept that you may have a problem and that you may need to do something about it. A most potent way to admit to yourself is to share it with people who are close to you.

2. Change the day to day rules.
Make notes of the triggering points. If running after a bus is one of the triggering factors, then make the new rule. You always must skip the first bus, even if you can take it with no rush. Obviously, this logic won’t work if you live in a rural area where a bus comes once every hour. I am talking about cities such as London, where the next bus is pretty much always 5 minutes away.
If the triggering factor is; you not being able to choose which shirt to wear or what to have for the breakfast, then use the “Always right” rule. Choose the item that is positioned on the right-hand side. So what if you are ending up wearing that pink shirt or having a bland oat porridge; as a result – the important thing is that you are training your subconscious mind about the new way of thinking, where the anxiety has no room.
Perhaps it’s not what triggers it, but who triggers? Although this can be a blog on its own, remember to fight for your boundaries, and do not be afraid to be assertive if someone mistreats you! Speak to people who are close to you, and seek help from the authorities if you are a victim of bullying.

3. Meditation is not for everyone!
One may read this and take me for a hypocrite, as I am one of the most pro meditation fanatics there is. If you are the person who can successfully meditate at least 20 minutes per day, then you have won half of the war already. Nevertheless, if the meditation itself becomes a triggering point for the anxiety, then find alternative ways to exercise mindfulness. Although we want the stay away from staring at electronic devices, playing easy going games such as Angry Birds, Candy Crash or Tetris, can be an alternative way to fight the anxiety. Word of warning, though! Don’t start using this as a way to escape every time there are minor symptoms; you may then confuse the mindfulness with escaping!
Or perhaps, absorbing the texture of the food that you put in your mouth and eating slowly can also help to live in the moment; hence, allows you being mindful.

4. Seek help from those supplements, such as:

CBD hemp oil
CBD oil is thought to work with a brain receptor called CB1. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli and help your cells respond.

The exact way CBD affects CB1 is not fully understood. However, it’s thought that it alters serotonin signals. Serotonin is one of your body’s chemicals and plays a role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are common in depression. Not having enough serotonin can also cause anxiety in some people.

The results, published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, showed that ashwagandha benefits just about every measure of stress. Compared to those who got the placebo, those taking ashwagandha had 28 per cent lower levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” While cortisol is helpful in small amounts, it causes problems when you’re battling chronic stress when your cortisol levels may remain mildly elevated for extended periods.

If you have social anxiety, general anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, or you just feel nervous in general; then you’ll often need a supplement that will make you feel calm but not sleepy.

Rhodiola reduces the stress hormone cortisol significantly, and it makes a lot of people feel very relaxed, focused, and terrific because it also stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin – the body’s “happy” or “feel good” neurotransmitters.

Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has a direct impact on the nervous system, soothing and calming frayed nerves. Known as a relaxing nervine, lemon balm relaxes, soothes and supports the nervous system as a whole.

Fun fact: Lemon balm has long been used as a remedy for the nerves. Hippocrates, Galen, Culpepper and even Shakespeare all spoke of its attributes. There are also records of Thomas Jefferson growing lemon balm at Monticello. Around 1696, John Evelyn wrote that “balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.

Avena Sativa
Avena Sativa has been used since the Middle Ages to support mental health, primarily to combat anxiety and balance mood. Modern science has identified Sicilic acid, arginine and triterpenoid saponins called avenocosides as the active compounds responsible for this herb’s nootropic effects.

Avena Sativa has been found to inhibit the production of “monoamine oxidase-B” (MAO-B), an enzyme which regulates the exact amount of dopamine we need in the brain. As we age, MOA-B levels increase, causing dopamine levels to fall. Research has shown that inhibition of this enzyme preserves brain function by protecting dopamine. Thus Avena Sativa can work as an anti-depressant, reduce anxiety and help with stress levels.

The magic of magnesium.
In my opinion, regardless of what kind of supplement you are deciding to start taking (check the list above), ensure that we are combining it with magnesium. Not only you will see benefits that are helping to relax your muscles, but magnesium itself is also a perfect natural antidepressant. Be warned though, that full benefits may occur in some cases only after three weeks of taking it; hence, don’t give up too early!

Let us tackle this little “anxiety monster”, and show to it, who is the boss! If you ever need any additional (free) advice, then pop by our shop, and we will be happy to share it with you – with no obligations to you!

Final tip:
If you were anxious, just count to Zen!

What’s your present to you this Christmas?

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A few mornings with a banging headache after a few too many Christmas spirits?

Maybe a stomach ache because your eyes were bigger than your belly?
Or a few more pounds to lose than the original plan.
(Insert other festive over-indulgences here).

It may be too late to change how it’s going to go down, your diary is already booked up months in advance for drinks & dinners with all your friends and family, and no-one wants to cancel. Christmas is such a fun time of year to catch up and connect with those we love; it’s only our wallets and health that really take a bashing.

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