Interview: Buffy-Ellen Gill – Be Good Organics founder
Buffy-Ellen Gill has a popular blog called Be Good Organics and has recently featured as a contributor in Bronwyn Kan’s recipe collaboration, WHOLE: Recipes for simple wholefood eating (see our review of the book here).
We caught up with Buffy-Ellen to find out what sparked her interest in holistic health and what keeps her motivated.
What made you start Be Good Organics?
Just over three years ago I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition where the thyroid gland becomes hyperactive and causes all of the body’s systems to go into overdrive. I became quite ill, with a racing heartbeat and palpitations, sweating, shakes, anxiety and insomnia.
I was told by various specialists that the recommended course of action was to go on high levels of medication (12 pills per day) to slow the heart rate and overactive thyroid. That would then likely be followed by either thyroid surgery to remove the thyroid gland, or radioactive therapy to destroy part of it. I would then need to go on another medication for the rest of my life to replace the function of the thyroid.
I began reading and researching a lot about autoimmune and chronic disease, and realised that in order to try and cure my condition rather than just treat the symptoms, I needed to move to a plant-based wholefoods diet, remove as many chemicals and toxins from my diet, skincare and home as possible, and reduce my stress levels. I quit my corporate job of eight years, focussed on repairing my health for a year, then started my Be Good Organics blog as a way of sharing what I had learned with others.
We later added a store as I had so many people asking me what products I recommended and foods I was eating, and found that many people couldn’t access these where they were. I also wanted to provide a place where people knew they could trust what I was recommending, and we only stock things that I personally love and use myself.
I now have a small team helping with the store side of things, and have now focussed back on my blog, where I share plant-based whole foods recipes and nutritional advice, to help others recover from similar conditions in a natural holistic way. I’ve also gone back to study, and am currently completing a Bachelor in Naturopathy focussed on plant-based nutrition. I love sharing new tidbits and nutritional info with my readers every week, but it’s also a bit of a personal diary too.
How have your lifestyle modifications helped alleviate your symptoms of Graves’ disease?
My Graves’ has been in full remission for over two years now, and I believe this has been strongly driven by the three changes I mentioned above – a plant-based whole foods diet; natural and organic food, skincare and home products; and trying to balance stress as much as possible. The first two are easy, the third one is still a challenge for me (A type personality!).
But I now actively choose to practice things to help myself with this – yoga, walks in nature, reading books, and at least one or two tech-free phone-free days per week. One other effect of Graves’ disease is that it impacts your fertility and stops your regular cycles, so I had difficulties falling pregnant. However five months ago we finally had our very first baby girl Mila, who is the healthiest (chubbiest!) and happiest little girl I’ve ever seen, and I know that my lifestyle changes have been a massive contributor to that!
What does keeping yourself healthy mean to you?
Eating a plant-based whole foods diet. That means focussing on five key food groups – fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and wholegrains. Then overlaying that with five different types of food – raw, soaked, sprouted, fermented and cooked. Reducing or eliminating meat, dairy, refined foods, refined sugar, and alcohol.
Daily exercise – I love yoga, pilates, or walking with my partner Tony and our little Mila in her front pack. Spending time with my family and friends. And trying to be present and grateful in everything I do. Travel and taking time away from your regular scene is great too (I’m currently writing this on the deck of our little bungalow in the Gili Islands, Indonesia!).
Why should people buy organic goods?
That’s how food and goods should be, how they have always been historically before the introduction of chemical alterations and artificial processes. Organic products are better for your health, better for animals, and better for our environment.
People say organic is expensive, but it’s the true cost of a product – one without synthetic additives or refining in order to extend a product’s shelf life; one with at least some level of animal welfare standards; and one with a real concern for sustainability and our environment. The only reason non-organic is cheaper is because something or someone (an animal, our environment, or your health) is being compromised to provide you with a cheaper product.
Unfortunately big companies are always out to make a profit, and they’ll cut costs in any of those three areas (health, animals and planet), if it means they can increase their bottom line!
How did you choose which recipes to include in the new simple wholefood eating cookbook WHOLE?
I wanted to include a selection of both sweet and savoury recipes that showed people how easy and ridiculously delicious plant-based food can be! My Carob Almond Fudge is super quick and easy, only contains a few ingredients, and is the most delicious natural plant-based sweet treat. My Chocolate Peanut Bars are a super delicious reincarnation of a Snickers bar, but with only wholefood and healthy ingredients.
Meanwhile my Corn, Capsicum and Chilli Fritters are an easy and tasty mid-week meal you can make for dinner, use leftovers for lunch the next day, and are also fabulous as finger food for a party or event. My Cumin-Dusted Kumara Fries with Creamy Cashew Aioli are something I make almost every week in our house, and the Aioli really showcases how you can make delicious creamy dips and spreads without dairy and animal products.
All of these recipes are favourites of mine that I had created but hadn’t yet shared on my blog, so I wanted to share them in this book. Finally the Mango and Turmeric Cheesecake is a bit more of a special occasion recipe that I made for my baby shower, and shows you how you can get fancy with plant-based ingredients and make a delicious ‘cheesecake’ that doesn’t contain dairy, eggs, refined sugar or flour. I’m really proud of all of the recipes and can’t wait for people to try them!
What do you eat in a typical day?
Fruit salad topped with Coconut Cashew Chia Cream, nuts and seeds; OR my Homemade Bircher Muesli with grated pear or apple OR in winter I’ll often make my Creamy Coconut Porridge and top it with whatever fruit is in season (all three recipes are on my blog).
A big salad with lots of leafy greens and veges (whatever is in season), topped with some sort of legume (chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, hummus, tofu or tempeh) and roast veges (kumara, pumpkin, potato) or a wholegrain (brown rice, quinoa). Sprinkled with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, avocado, and a homemade dressing with oil and vinegar. I mix it up everyday, but it always has this same combo – salad/vege + legumes + wholegrains/roast vege + healthy fats. Another favourite of mine is two slices of wholegrain toast topped with misomite (a fermented take on marmite, you can find it in our Be Good Organics online store), avocado, tomato, with a salad on the side and dressing – so quick and so delicious!
One of the recipes from my blog (every time I make a new winner I share it on there!). A few quick and easy favourites are my Spiced Cauliflower Fritters, my Zucchini Fritters, or my 4C Soup served with wholegrain toast buttered with Turmeric Butter. Otherwise I’ll make a mashup stir-fry with whatever veges are in season, using the same combo as lunch – veges + legumes (protein) + wholegrains or roast root veges, topped with some good fats (seeds, avocado, dressing).
I love healthy sweet treats for snacks, and have shared heaps on my blog – a few favourites right now are my Apricot Almond Logs, my Cacao Coconut Bars, and my Ferrero Rocher Truffles. I’ll have a few of these with some more nuts (brazils, almonds, hazelnut, walnuts) or seeds (pumpkin and sunflower) and a herbal tea of some sort. Because I’m making different recipes all the time for the blog, the combos always change, but the base equation is the same!
I absolutely love raw desserts. After dinner we’ll have something a bit more luxurious that includes cacao or something creamy. Sometimes it’s one of my Raw Afghan Brownies, or a slice of Raw Cheesecake (heaps of recipes on the blog, but the Creamy Lemon and Salted Caramel are two of my favourites). I’ll always serve our dessert with some chopped up fruit, a huge dollop of my Coconut Cashew Chia Cream or Coconut Yoghurt, and a herbal tea. I love making healthy desserts, that way I get to eat them every single day!
What do you splurge on when it comes to health and fitness?
Buying organic! It costs more but it’s so worth it for your health. If you’re eating a plant-based whole foods diet you actually save a lot of money anyway from not having to buy expensive meat, dairy and packaged foods. Chickpeas, brown rice, tofu and kumara are really cheap!
We then try and grow as much of our own green veges and herbs as we can. Then you have spares to splurge on some of the more expensive ingredients like organic cashews and raw cacao for making those aforementioned brownies and cheesecakes…
How do you wind down at the end of a busy day?
Have a healthy dinner together with my partner, then turn off our phones and play with our little girl Mila in the lounge. We’ll often watch documentaries or read books, or go for a walk up to a local ethnic restaurant for dinner.
If I’m on my own I’ll often indulge in some sneaky Jamie Oliver re-runs on Food TV – although I could watch them for hours so have to keep tabs on myself! Then comes dessert (of course) – enjoyed on the couch with a herbal tea or hot cacao drink. I love the ritual of our evenings!
What’s your best piece of advice to someone starting out with organic living?
Start small and take baby steps. I often suggest that people sign up for my blog, start reading a few of the recipes, then try one that catches their eye. Hopefully they’ll have an awesome experience and will absolutely love the taste and how they feel afterwards, and be encouraged to try something new the following week.
Start by just incorporating one new plant-based recipe in your week, then wait until you find a favourite, add that to your repertoire and next week add another. If you can get to the place where the majority of your meals are plant-based you’re well on your way to great health, happiness and generally feeling amazing!
If you’re interested in learning more or trying some of my recipes, sign up for my blog or or you can also connect with me on Facebook and Instagram (my pages are below).
Images / Bronwyn Kan