Changing your diet can transform your health. In 2011, Ella Mills was diagnosed with postural tachycardia. Ella began to research nutrition, learned to cook and started Deliciously Ella in 2012. In this episode we discuss:
What you eat has a huge impact on your health and happiness, says chef and author Ella Mills – and a focus on plants is the key
Ella Mills, the founder of Deliciously Ella, was ahead of the curve when she turned to a plant-based diet a decade ago, to help her recover from chronic illness. ‘Eating really fresh, natural food changed my life in every way,’ she says. Here’s how you can benefit, too.
‘One of the key pitfalls is to think this approach is about dieting,’ says Ella. ‘And it’s not – it’s about fuelling your body in a way that’s delicious, abundant, versatile and colourful, with loads of textures and flavours. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be “Think about what you’re putting in, not what you’re taking out.” Instead of being in a restrictive mindset, eat the same meal, but maybe add in some crispy roasted broccoli and cauliflower, then toss through some harissa and toasted seeds for crunch. In time, you might naturally find you don’t have such a craving for the other things.’
‘The wellness space can be confusing, it can feel quite inaccessible and like there are 1001 opinions all competing against each other,’ says Ella. ‘It’s really important to move past these conversations about what’s the healthiest diet – “Should we have 5 a day, or 7 or 10? Should we be paleo, keto or vegan?” Instead, let’s just eat real food, lots of plants, try to sleep and move our bodies more, with everyone going in that direction and away from over 50% of our intake being ultra-processed food. That’s what I’m feeling really strongly about at the moment.’
‘Modern life requires you to balance things out. The levels of stress, burnout and lifestyle-related diseases we’re seeing from not having the resources, capabilities, time and energy to be able to take care of yourself in the most basic ways is creating such a fundamental issue,’ says Ella. ‘Do whatever it is you need for your mental health: a little bit more time to cook, or to prioritise meditation. But the more busy you are, the more you need it.’
‘At the moment, we eat as a family [with husband Matthew, daughters Skye, nearly two, and May, eight months] so we’re focused on quick, easy recipes, trying to limit the washing up and number of steps,’ says Ella. ‘For example, the other night I did a risotto with sautéed garlic, onion, celery, veggie stock, rice, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, peas and a little soaked wakame seaweed, which has a nice flavour and contains iodine, not very easy to find in a plant-based diet. Or I might do lentil bolognaise – I’ll make four times what we need, then freeze the leftovers. With little kids who are so hungry, it’s a lifesaver to be able to whip it out.’
‘I totally relate to that feeling of “I don’t have the capacity for this”,’ says Ella. ‘So finding a way to reclaim little pockets of time is really important. Wellness can be 10 minutes of simple breathing or trying to get 30 minutes more sleep. Or having some more lentils or broccoli with that meal and maybe swapping out one ultra-processed food for something homemade. It doesn’t have to be this huge fundamental shift in absolutely everything you do.’
‘Now I’ve had children and learned more about the environmental side of a plant-based diet, that’s become a huge passion. The fact global climate change is happening to such a rapid degree is petrifying,’ says Ella. ‘The extent to which we pursue it is individual, but a primarily plant-based if not a fully plant-based diet – it feels like we’ve no choice. The sooner we move in this direction, the sooner we can have a fundamental impact on this planet we all love. I’ve got to the point where I don’t want to be quiet about it.’
‘Getting personal space used to mean going out for dinner, or leaving the house, but obviously those options were taken away during the pandemic,’ says Ella. ‘Now we get up at 5.30 and that gives us 90 minutes to ourselves before the girls are up. We use that time to meditate, have coffee, move and just have a little bit of quiet. I’ve never done anything that’s had such a huge ripple effect across everything I do. It’s created this sense of headspace, calm and focus which has had an amazing impact on both parenting and work.’
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A doctor for over 17 years, Gemma Newman has worked in many specialities as a doctor including elderly care, endocrinology, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry, general surgery, urology, vascular surgery, rehabilitation medicine and General Practice.
Dr Newman's specialist interests are in holistic health and plant-based nutrition as well as lifestyle medicine. In her practice she has come to understand that body, mind and soul are not separate, and that it is only in addressing the root causes of stress and disconnection that we can truly heal, from the inside out.