Why we all should quit sugar & how to still enjoy *nutella*

No sugar, no problem! Seriously. Take it from a recovering sugar addict.

no sugar, no problemLet me explain. A week ago I have decided to go on a 30-day sugar detox, meaning I am completely cutting out processed sugar. The only “sweet stuff” I use are honey, fresh and dried fruits.

Sugar is poison. It is addictive and¬† wreaks havoc on our liver, messes up our metabolism and impairs brain function. I never thought about it much and I have always eaten A LOT of it. Until 2011, when I realized that I was always tired, my hormones were a mess and I just needed to have some of it every day. So I cut it out. Completely. For a few months. And it was awesome! ūüôā

A few (frightening) sugar facts*:

It can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.

It upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.

It can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.

It causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.

It feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.

It can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.

It can weaken eyesight.

It can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

It can cause premature aging. In fact, the single most factor that accelerates aging is insulin, which is triggered by sugar.

It can cause your saliva to become acidic, leading to tooth decay and periodontal disease.

It can cause depression.

So what to do when still want something sweet? I present to you almondella! ūüėČ

Yes, I really wanted to make (vegan) nutella, but didn’t have all the ingredients at home, so I used what was at hand. And the result was delicious!

roasted almondsWhat you need:

> 2 cups raw almonds

> 1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

> 1/4 cup cocoa powder

> 2 tbsp honey

> 1/4 tsp salt

> 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt (use the vanilla one, if it has no added sugar)

blenderWhat to do:

>¬†scatter the almonds on a baking sheet. Roast them for 10 to 14 minutes at 420¬ļF/215¬ļC. Let cool completely and gently rub the almonds with a towel to remove the skins

> process the almonds in a food processor or blender. I used the latter, it just takes a bit more time and patience. Process until you achieve a butter-like mixture

almondella>¬†add the rest of the ingredients and blend everything until it’s well mixed. Stop the processor occasionally to scrape down the sides

> here you go! use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge

> enjoy responsibly & let me know what you thing about the recipe! ūüėČ

 

*source

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More sugar-free recipes: Raw porridge

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Food & Fact: SWEET POTATO

Happy Monday everyone,

First a small announcement – the Food&Fact post will go from weekly to monthly or maybe biweekly – depending on what time will allow me. Even though I really love writing it, I do give priority to quality over quantity, so that’s that. ūüôā

This week I was wondering about a super yummy, healthy and versatile veggie, that most people don’t use much; I was actually quite oblivious to it until I started researching vegan recipes a few years ago. So let’s shed some light on:

SWEET POTATO:

sweetpotato-pola

  • Ipomoea batatas
  • Its name means “tuberous morning glory”;
  • The plant has¬†heart-shaped or palmately lobed¬†leaves¬†and sympetalous¬†flowers. The edible root has a smooth skin whose color ranges between yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, and beige. Its flesh ranges from beige through white, red, pink, violet, yellow, orange, and purple. Sweet potato varieties with white or pale yellow flesh are less sweet and moist than those with red, pink or orange flesh;
  • Good to know: sweet potatoes are on the Clean 15 list (EWG’s 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce) meaning that they should be¬†among¬†the fruits and veggies lowest in pesticide content;
  • Buying & Storing: choose clean, smooth and firm potatoes, avoid those with wrinkled skin, soft spots and bruises. Store in a cool and dry place, but not in the fridge, preferably in a dark paper bag, this way they should last for about a month;
  • A good source of:
  1. Phytonutrients: super rich in beta-carotene, which acts as antioxidant, and is converted in vitamin A inside the body; anthocyanin and other color-related pigments in sweet potato have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, furthermore, one of them, fibrinogen  is one of the key glycoproteins in the body that is required for successful blood clotting;
  2. Fiber:
  3. VITAMINS: excellent source of vitamin A ( 438.1% of daily value in 1 cup) and vitamin C (37.2% of daily value in 1 cup), good source of vitamins B6, B5 and B3;
  4. MINERALS: magnesium, potassium (the latter is is used in higher amounts by the body in times of stress), calcium, iron, copper;
  • Actions:¬†antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti cancer, heart protective, blood-sugar regulating, good for your skin;
  • Culinary uses: can be cooked, steamed, baked, roasted, used in soups, mashed, used as base for desserts, juiced (tried-yummy);
  • Ayurveda: sweet potatoes are not part of the¬†nightshade¬†family, but of the morning glory one, so they can be usually eaten by people, who have trouble digesting white potatoes. They are warm and heavy in nature and¬†mildly¬†laxative, they can create gas. Counteract the latter by preparing them with ginger and cinnamon;
  • Interesting and useful: beta-carotene absorbs much better in the body, when consumed with a small amount of fat, so prepare your sweet potatoes with some healthy oil/butter to really reap all the benefits. Lots of nutrients are also hidden in the skin, try consuming them unpeeled (but well¬†scrubbed). Sweet potatoes have a low glycemic-index (GI), meaning better blood-sugar effect, and steaming or boiling them, instead of baking, helps preserve it.

SWEET POTATO JUICE (recipe found here):

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large slice pineapple, peeled, cored, about ¬Ĺ cup¬†
  • 1/4 inch slice of¬†ginger¬†root, peeled

Toss all ingredients in the juicer, let it do its magic and enjoy!

I am currently¬†experimenting¬†with green smoothies (can be seriously yummy stuff), writing down recipes and observing the effects. I can say, it is going very well for now, I will keep you updated and share my “discoveries”. ūüôā

Until then enjoy your fruits and veggies!

Happy Monday!

Maja

p.s.: As always, the words in blue contain a link to the Glossary, where you can check the meaning of some terms used in the post.

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

–¬†The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_potato

–¬†http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64

–¬†http://www.naturalnews.com/034135_sweet_potatoes_nutrition.html

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta-Carotene

–¬†http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/beta-carotene

–¬†http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

sweet potato juice recipe

Food Is My Medicine, Nature Is My Pharmacy

Hello friends,

It looks like Spring is finally coming and I can say I am enjoying the sunny days in Amsterdam. Make time and really try to go out to get yourself a dose  of sunshine, which gives you vitamin D, an essential nutrient, that helps your body absorb calcium from food and has a role in the nerve, muscle, and immune systems.

Orange fruit trees in the strong sun-polaThis is also what today’s post is about¬†Nature and how it can help us stay and/or get healthy.¬†Ever since starting to write this blog, particularly the Monday’s Food & Fact section, I have been surprised and reminded again and again how perfectly things are arranged in the Universe, with Mother Nature providing us with everything we need to live a healthy and active life. One part of it is of course the woods, waters, mountains, meadows, the sun, the rain, fresh air, the animals, they all have a healing effect on us, if we only allow it. The other thing is the food that we are offered, all the wonderful plants, that can be our sources of health and energy.

So today’s article is more or less a summary of a chapter of a very cool book – The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible by Pat Crocker, which I recommend to everyone. Below you will find 10 foods that have very beneficial effects on each of the seven body systems. It is a long list, I know, but well worth the read, I promise.

  • Hearth Health:
  1. Avocados: high in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids including oleic acid;
  2. Garlic: helps platelet aggregation and blood pressure, decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke;
  3. Soy and other beans: can significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels by decreasing cholesterol and absorption of bile acid from the gastrointestinal tract; buy organic and non-genetically modified soy and always consume in moderation (soy products contain phytoestrogens, which may act like weak estrogens in the body);
  4. Pomegranate: reduces the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, protects arteries from becoming thicker, reduces the development of atherosclerosis;
  5. Extra virgin olive oil: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, high in monounsaturated fats, reduces blood pressure and improves lipid profiles;
  6. Whole oats: contain a soluble fiber that binds cholesterol in the bowels and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream;
  7. Celery: its compound 3-n-butyl phthalide benefits the cardiovascular system, helps reduce blood pressure;
  8. Apples: rich in pectin, which helps lower cholesterol levels and works against the oxidation of LDL; rich in quercetin, also an antioxidant, that regenerates the levels of vitamin E in the body, has anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic properties;
  9. Asparagus and leafy greens: high in folate, essential for lowering the homocysteine levels, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke;
  10. Tea and cocoa: rich in bioflavonoids; consume in moderation.
  • Digestive Health:
  1. Cabbage: rich in glutamine, which helps cells repair and regenerate themselves, prevents undigested foods from passing through the intestinal lining; sauerkraut helps populate the intestinal micro flora and contains digestive enzymes;
  2. Onions: source of quercetin, which helps protect the lining of the digestive system from irritation and the body from food sensitivities; a source of a complex sugar that acts as a probiotic and feeds healthy bacteria in our digestive system;
  3. Apples: rich in pectin (helps calm the intestinal tract during diarrhea and prevents constipation) and quercetin (stabilizes immune reactions and decreases inflammation and irritation);
  4. Garlic: acts as a probiotic and feeds healthy bacteria in our digestive system, also a powerful antimicrobial, protecting against parasites, yeast, viruses and bacteria;
  5. Fennel seeds: stimulate digestion and appetite;
  6. Peppermint: helps relax the stomach and intestines when we suffer from cramping and spasms, helps relieve nausea; if you suffer from gastric reflux, avoid it, because it also relaxes the esophageal sphincter and could cause symptoms of heartburn;
  7. Bitter greens: help stimulate the release of bile from the gall bladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas, enhancing digestive function;
  8. Pineapple and papaya: contain digestive enzymes bromelain and papain that help break foods in the digestive tract, can decrease symptoms of food sensitivities and reduce bloating after the meal;
  9. Brown rice: good source of insoluble fiber that increases bulk in the stool, helps prevent constipation and protect against colon cancer;
  10. Beans and other legumes: excellent source of soluble fiber, a food source for friendly bacteria in the intestines.
  • Endocrine Health:
  1. Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy contain a phytochemical (indole-3-carbinol), that induces the break down of estrogen into its harmless metabolites, reducing the risk of breast cancer;
  2. Sea vegetables: nori, arame, kelp, dulse, kombu all contain iodine, an essential mineral needed for the production of thyroid hormones, which help increase metabolism;
  3. Pumpkin seeds: high in zinc, essential for the healthy function of the male reproductive system, helping keep proper testosterone levels, sperm production and motility;
  4. Stevia: its extract has 200 times the sweetness of sugar and no calories, it does not raise blood sugar levels and has glucose lowering properties;
  5. Soy foods: its phytoestrogens may help protect from cancer; again buy only organic and non-genetically modified soy and always consume in moderation;
  6. Onions and garlic: have blood-sugar regulating properties, they contain sulfur, aiding in liver detoxification and elimination of excess hormones; garlic is high in selenium, a strong antioxidant;
  7. Flax, hemp seeds: a source of omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens helping regulate the menstrual cycle in women;
  8. Brewer’s yeast: good source of chromium that helps promote the uptake of glucose by target cells, regulating blood sugar and preventing diabetes;
  9. Citrus fruits: rich in vitamin C, which helps the production of adrenal hormones, increases¬†insulin’s¬†response to sugar (helping lower blood-sugar) and can help prevent breast and prostate cancer (antioxidant);
  10. Spinach: rich in alpha-lipoic acid, very important for glucose metabolism and prevention of diabetes, also an antioxidant; a source of many minerals.
  • Immune Health:
  1. Soy foods: high in protein, complex carbohydrates and phytonutrients; always buy organic, non-genetically modified and consume in moderation;
  2. Cruciferous vegetables:  broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts contain  a phytochemical (indole-3-carbinol), that induces the break down of a harmful estrogen molecule into its harmless metabolites, reducing the risk of breast cancer;
  3. Flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil: rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, helping reduce inflammation; never heat these oils, store in a dark bottle in a cool place, possibly the fridge, to prevent rancidity;
  4. Shiitake mushrooms: contain mycochemicals, which may stop the growth of tumors by suggesting a programmed death to the individual cancer cells;
  5. Tomatoes: rich in lycopene, an antioxidant, that helps protect against some forms of cancer (including lung and prostate) and boosts the immune system; interestingly cooked tomato contains a more bioavailable form of lycopene than raw tomato;
  6. Avocados: high in the antioxidant glutathione and in monounsaturated fats;
  7. Brown rice: good source of insoluble fiber which, helps protect against colon cancer; has a low allergic potential compared to other grains, making it less of a burden for the immune system;
  8. Blueberries: one of the best antioxidant foods;
  9. Green tea: rich in polyphenols giving it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties,
  10. Pumpkin seeds: high in zinc (boosts immunity, protects against free radicals, needed for wound repair, helps prevent recurrent infections, reduces the duration of cold symptoms);
  • Musculoskeletal Health:
  1. Almonds: rich in calcium and magnesium, which are important for contraction and relaxation of muscles (recurrent muscle cramps might signal lack of these minerals) and mineralization of bone; also high in protein and monounsaturated fats;
  2. Tofu: source of high quality protein, calcium (added as coagulant), iron and zinc; as other soy products may prevent osteoporosis; as mentioned above buy only organic, non-genetically modified and consume in moderation:
  3. Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and especially kale are rich in an easily absorbed form of calcium and also vitamin C, (helps protect joints against free-radical damage created during inflammation, helps repair and build new cartilage in the joints);
  4. Leafy greens: rich in vitamin K (helps bind calcium to the bone matrix and thus reduce the elimination of calcium in the urine); high in calcium and folic acid; they create an alkaline environment in the body, making it an unsuitable for fungus and cancer cells to multiply, helping with problems of stomach acidity, and preventing extraction of calcium from the bones (protecting from osteoporosis);
  5. Flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, chia seeds: rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, making them anti-inflammatory (also have been shown to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of arthritis);
  6. Turmeric: can stop the enzyme that produces inflammation and inhibits the break-down of cortisone in the body, making it a superb anti-inflammatory (decreases the symptoms of arthritis and prevents further damage to the cartilage in the joints); highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine;
  7. Ginger: anti-inflammatory (inhibits the enzymes that promote inflammation and helps make white blood cells more stable so they release fewer inflammation mediators);
  8. Citrus fruits: oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes,¬†mandarins¬†have an alkalizing effect on the body, so that it doesn’t need to take calcium from the bones to buffer acidity; rich in vitamin C;
  9. Sunlight: ultraviolet light from the sun converts 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin into vitamin D3, which is further converted into more active forms in the liver and kidneys; it stimulates the absorption of calcium from food in the digestive tract and kidneys;
  10. Nuts and seeds: rich in magnesium (look at 1. for its benefits).
  • Nervous System Health:
  1. Flax, hemp and chia seeds and oil: rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which regulate mood, emotion and prevent depression;
  2. Whole grains: rich in B vitamins, essential for a proper functioning of the nervous system, since they manufacture neurotransmitters and help the proper use of fuel by the brain; they also help control levels of blood-sugar and so maintain stable moods and energy levels;
  3. Spirulina or blue-green algae: rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and contains small amounts of vitamin B12 (helps increase oxygen in the brain and the speed of nerve impulses);
  4. Oats: rich in B vitamins and fiber, they help relax the nervous system, prevent exhaustion caused by anxiety and depression and can also help with symptoms of drug withdrawal (especially when quitting smoking);
  5. Brewer’s yeast: high in B vitamins (healthy¬†nervous system), and chromium, essential for blood-sugar regulation;
  6. Blackstrap molasses: good source of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and iron, which help the production of brain neurotransmitters and nervous system functioning;
  7. Chocolate: causes the release of serotonin in the brain (neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure); consume dark chocolate, possibly without processed sugar, in moderation of course :);
  8. Exercise: increases the circulation of blood, oxygen and glucose in the brain, stimulates the release of endorphins (can elevate mood); preferably exercise outside in fresh air;
  9. Barley: has a very low glycemic index (GI), which means that when consuming it, blood-sugar levels and the supply of glucose to the brain remain constant, preventing mood fluctuations with depression, anxiety and PMS;
  10. Nuts and seeds: rich in protein, B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium.
  • Respiratory Health:
  1. Sprouted seeds and grains: full of life energy (prana, chi), help¬†strengthen¬†the body’s energy, the lungs and respiratory system;
  2. Flax, hemp and chia seeds and oil: rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties (helpful for asthma patients);
  3. Garlic: strong antibacterial properties (can help against bacteria that cause pneumonia, fight viruses and fungal infections of the respiratory system);
  4. Pumpkin seeds: zinc may help reduce allergies and asthma;
  5. Yellow and red onions: rich in quercetin, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic;
  6. Ginger: antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties; try fresh ginger tea – recipe here;
  7. Almonds: rich in calcium and magnesium, which help muscle contraction and relaxation also for the smooth muscles of the respiratory system;
  8. Berries: rich in vitamin C, which is antioxidant and antihistaminic;
  9. Cruciferous vegetables: rich in important minerals and cancer fighting chemicals; especially cabbage is rich in glutamine, which helps building and repair of mucous membranes, keeping allergens and pathogens at bay;
  10. Thyme and Oregano: thyme having a high content of volatile oils helps fighting infections, sore throat, cough, bronchitis, asthma; oregano is a strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic.

That is it, in short. ūüôā

600719_502513043127948_399669261_n-polaOf course the listed foods might not work for everyone, so remember to listen to your body and observe how it reacts to the food you eat. Take your time to enjoy meals and be present while eating.

Your body is a wonderful mechanism, which always tells you, what is good for it and what not – do you feel your hart racing after eating certain foods, do you feel heavy, sleepy and bloated or do you feel calm and nourished?

So which foods will you choose?

Happy Wednesday!

Love & Light,

Maja

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible:¬†Pat Crocker (pages 10-56),

– The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

Wikipedia,

WebMD

Food & Fact: HEMP

Last week we dived into herbs, so it would be only appropriate to explore another food family, right?

Well, while doing my research I was so intrigued by another member of the herb family, that I just had to post it this week. It is a very controversial and very famous herb, but its many (many!) uses (except the one) tend not to be so well known. Unfortunately, because it seems to be another wonder plant!

This loved and hated plant is used as food, its seeds can be processed into oil, butter, milk and flour, it can be used to make a variety of materials, such as rope, paper, building materials and fabric (it was actually used in the original Levi’s jeans, but had to be abandoned due to lack of supply) and it is also used to make fuel, being one of the most¬†efficient¬†plants for¬†bio-fuel¬†as an alternative to gasoline.

Have you guessed it? We are talking about:

HEMP:

hemp_plant_0109_360x252-pola

  • Cannabis sativa L.
  • A tall woody plant growing on multi-cellular stalks with very distinct leaves;
  • Good to know: often confused with the marijuana plant since they both belong to the Cannabis family and also look very alike. Industrial hemp grown for food, materials and fuel contains virtually no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol,¬†the psychoactive ingredient responsible for the “high” from smoking marijuana). Hemp oil, milk, butter and flower are all produced from hemp seeds;
  • Buying & Storing: industrial hemp can be grown in Canada, as well as Europe, but is still banned in the USA.¬†Fortunately¬†its food products like hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, butter and milk are available in stores world wide. Always buy cold pressed hemp seed oil. Store hemp seeds and hemp seed oil in a dark and cool place, and the butter and milk in the fridge;
  • A good source of:
  1. Protein:¬†with 20% protein content hemp seeds have all 20 amino acids, including 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) making them a complete protein food, rarely found among plants, and thus a blessing for vegetarians and vegans. These proteins are considered highly digestible and don’t contain phytic acid (that anti-nutrient that prevents us from absorbing minerals);
  2. Essential fatty acids:¬†nature’s highest plant source of EFAs, containing more than flax or any other nut or seed oil (except perhaps chia seed). Furthermore it contains the perfect balance 3:1 of Omega-6 linolenic acid and Omega-3 linolenic acid, providing for cardiovascular health and¬†strengthening¬†of the immune system;
  3. Phytonutrients: such as phytosterols and carotenes (act as antioxidants), which help protect your immunity, bloodstream, tissues, cells, skin and organs;
  4. VITAMINS: excellent source of vitamin E complex;
  5. MINERALS: magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium;
  • Actions:¬†antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, relieves digestive disorders, neuralgia, insomnia, depression, migraines,¬†promotes healthy menstruation, treats glaucoma, antiemetic, aids breathing, all-over-health-promoting;
  • Culinary uses: seeds can be used sprinkled on salads, desserts, soups, in a tahini-like paste, snacks, grain dishes, with vegetables; hemp seed oil is used without heating (because it destroys its nutrients) in salad dressings, sauces, dips, spreads; both, as well as hemp seed milk can be used in smoothies;
  • Interesting:¬†hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants known,¬†it has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12.000 years. According to Wikipedia it is supposed to be¬†one of the faster growing¬†biomasses¬†known,¬†producing up to 25 tons¬†of dry matter per hectare¬†per year. It¬†is claimed to require only few¬†pesticides¬†and no herbicides to grow, and it¬†gives a permanent removal of the¬†greenhouse gas¬†carbon dioxide¬†from¬†Earth’s atmosphere. The world leading producer of hemp is¬†China.

STRAWBERRY BANANA HEMP SEED SMOOTHIE (this recipe and more here):

3 cups strawberries

2 bananas

1 cup coconut water

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

Ice as needed

Blend all ingredients. Enjoy!

Wow I am amazed yet again! I have been using hemp seeds and really like them in salads and sprinkled on soups, but keep forgetting to buy a new pack, since I ran out a feew weeks ago already. Guess what? I’m headed to the store right now! ūüôā

Happy Monday!

Maja

p.s.: The words in blue contain a link to the Glossary, where you can check the meaning of some terms used in the post.

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp

–¬†http://bodyecology.com

–¬†http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com

–¬†http://www.ratical.org/

–¬†http://www.antioxidants-for-health-and-longevity.com

–¬†http://www.regenerativenutrition.com

smoothie recipe

Food & Fact: BASIL

Hello everybody,

Today is a day for exploring¬†herbs. They¬†are defined as plants used for culinary, medicinal, cosmetic or ornamental purposes. Though I prefer this definition: “Herbs are defined as plants whose parts are used to enhance our lives.” ūüôā

Generally most herbs have antioxidant properties and the green parts supply chlorophyll (which enhances the body’s ability to produce hemoglobin and therefore increases the delivery of oxygen to cells). A caution to be aware of – medicinal doses of herbs are to be avoided during pregnancy unless following the advice of an expert.

The herb I chose is one of my¬†favorites, maybe also because it is widely used in the region¬†where¬†I come from (a part of Slovenia on the border with Italy). It’s:

BASIL:

Basil3800ppx-pola

  • Oscimum basilicum
  • Round leaves green in color, some varieties (there are more than 60!) ¬†feature hints of red or purple. ¬†Sweet basil is most commonly used in the West, other varieties include lemon basil, anise basil, holly basil and cinnamon basil;
  • Buying & Storing: whenever possible choose fresh basil – the leaves should look vibrant and deep green, without dark spots or yellowing. It is also a good idea to smell it. Store fresh basil in the fridge wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. Store dried basil in a tightly sealed container in a dry place;
  • A good source of:
  1. Flavonoids: particularly orientin and viceninare, two water-soluble flavonoids, that have been shown to protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage;
  2. Volatile oils: which contain estragole, linalool, cineole,eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene are proven to be effective in restricting growth of numerous bacteria. Furthermore eugenol (a substance that can block the activity of the body enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX); aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme) in basil has been the subject of extensive study Рit qualifies basil as anti-inflammatory food that can provide important healing benefits and relief with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions;
  3. VITAMINS: excellent source of vitamin K (2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil provide 60% of daily value), vitamin A, vitamin C;
  4. MINERALS: iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium;
  • Actions:¬†antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, relieves indigestion, nervous tension, stress and tension headaches;
  • In Ayurveda:¬†recommended¬†for Vata and Kapha types, but it aggravates Pitta, used in herb teas Pitta can enjoy it occasionally;
  • Culinary uses: used fresh or dried in cooking, baking and raw dishes. Best to be added near the end of the cooking process, so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor;
  • Interesting:¬†Holy basil (tulsi),¬†originally from India, is considered a sacred plant by the Hindus and is often planted around Hindu shrines. Its name means “the incomparable one” and is used for treating cold, flu, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, earache, headache, upset stomach, heart disease, fever, viral hepatitis, malaria, and tuberculosis. Also used for mercury poisoning, to promote longevity, as a mosquito repellent, and to counteract snake and scorpion bites.

Recipe: FRESH VEGAN PESTO:

3 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts (optionally toasted)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

nutritional yeast (optional)

Optional – roast the pine nuts in a small pot until they start emitting a nice nutty smell, take off the stove and let it cool. Put the garlic in the food processor and mince well. Add basil, pine nuts, lemon juice and combine well, then add the oil and blend to get a smooth paste (you can add more oil to get a desired consistency). Spice with salt and pepper, optionally add nutritional yeast. Enjoy with pasta, pizza, veggies, sandwiches, yum yum! ūüôā ¬†

Who knew basil was such a wonder plant!

Happy Monday!

Maja

p.s.: The words in blue contain a link to the Glossary, where you can check the meaning of some terms used in the post.

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil

–¬†http://www.whfoods.com/

–¬†http://www.webmd.com/

Food & Fact: ALMONDS

Hello everybody,

This week’s food comes from the group of nuts.¬†Nuts are the essence of the plant, they contain everything necessary for the plant to reproduce itself and are therefore extremely nutritious. They contain life force, the energy needed for all life to flourish, the potential of growth. So here come the (probably) most widely used nuts:

ALMONDS:

how-to-make-almond-milk-1-pola

  • Prunus amygdalus
  • Buying & Storing: it is best to buy raw almonds, unshelled ones will keep in a cool place for up to 6 months, shelled ones for up to 2 months; chopped almonds will go rancid quickly due to their high oil content and should be stored in the fridge for up to 6 weeks;
  • Important: almonds, as all other nuts and seeds,¬†contain in their skin a special enzyme that inhibits them from sprouting until all the¬†conditions for germination¬†are reached (proper sunlight, moisture). Till that time the almond does not release these enzyme, so by eating it, we also ingest the enzyme inhibitors, that limit nutrient absorption from almonds during the digestion process in our body. The easy solution – soak the almonds in water overnight (at least 8 hours) and rinse them well with fresh water in the morning.
  • A good source of:
  1. Fiber;
  2. Protein;
  3. Essential fatty acids (EFAs): especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like¬†oleic¬†and¬†palmitoleic acids¬†that help to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol”;
  4. VITAMINS: excellent source of vitamin E  (25 g per 100 grams), B complex vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folic acid);
  5. MINERALS: excellent source of manganese and also potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium;
  • Actions: antioxidant, lower blood cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, healthy skin & hair;
  • In Ayurveda: highly valued as rejuvenative. Ayurvedic practice recommends almonds always to be blanched (=the skin removed), as the skins are difficult to digest;
  • Culinary uses: best eaten raw & soaked or lightly toasted. Can be used whole or chopped in cereal, smoothies, salads, baked goods, sauces, you name it.
  • Interesting and useful: as mentioned above take time to soak your almonds (or other nuts & seeds), their nutritional value will increase¬†immensely¬†and they will be easier to digest. If you still feel they are heavy on your stomach, try peeling the skins off after you soak them.

Recipe: HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK:

1 cup raw almonds

4 cups of water

Soak the almonds overnight (at least 8 hours) and rinse them well with fresh water in the morning. Place them in a blender with 4 cups fresh water and blend well. Strain the blended almonds with a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, a strainer or pantyhose, pour the milk in a glass bottle. It keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days. Enjoy the yumminess (is that a word? :D)!
You can use the remaining strained almonds on a salad, cereal, in a smoothie or to make a spread.

So, remember to soak your nuts to increase their nutritional value and drink some healthy homemade almond milk. It is ridiculously easy & fast and you can try it with other nuts or seeds too.

You got to love nature!

Maja

p.s.:  Just a reminder Рthe words in blue contain a link to the Glossary, where you can check the meaning of some terms used in the post.

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

–¬†http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/almonds.html

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almond

–¬†http://mynewroots.org/site/2008/03/soak-your-nuts-2/

Food & Fact: KALE

Hello everybody,

It’s vegetable time! And for the first vegetable to be explored I definitely had to pick a superhero. No doubt about it, it’s:

KALE:

kale-pola

  • Brassica oleracea
  • a leafy green vegetable belonging to the cruciferous vegetables group, including cabbage, collards, and Brussels sprouts; there are several varieties of kale: curly kale, ornamental kale, and dinosaur (or Lacinato or Tuscan) kale, which differ in taste, texture, and appearance;
  • Buying & Storing: look for deep colour, crisp leaves; store unwashed in a vented plastic bag in the fridge, away from fruits; the longer it is stored, the bitter the flavour becomes;
  • Important: kale is on the Dirty Dozen Plus¬†list from the Environmental Working Group 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which means it may contain pesticide residues of special concern, so again it is¬†recommended to buy organic;
  • A good source of:
  1. Fiber: fiber-related components of kale bind together with bile acids in your digestive tract better, when kale has been steamed, meaning better absorption of fibre and all-over better digestion;
  2. Flavonoids: has over 45 different flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin in large amounts) effects remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits;
  3. Glucosinolates: top food source for at least 4 glucosinolates; once eaten and digested, these glucosinolates can be converted by the body into cancer preventive compounds and in some cases kale has cancer treatment properties as well. Cancer related research for kale shows it has beneficial effects on colon and breast cancer, risk of bladder, prostate, and ovarian cancer have also all been found to decrease in relationship to routine intake of kale;
  4. Essential fatty acids (EFAs): contains a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the basic building block for all Omega-3 fatty acids, which boost heart health and have many other health benefits;
  5. VITAMINS: vitamin K (1cup/130g containing 1327.6%  of daily value!!!), vitamin A (354.1%), vitamin C (88.8%), vitamin E, B complex vitamins (pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine);
  6. MINERALS: manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium;
  • Actions: antioxidant, anticancer, detoxifying, lower blood cholesterol, anti-inflammatory;
  • In Ayurveda: qualities of cold, takes energy and fire to digest;
  • Culinary uses: rinse under cold running water, remove tough stem and spine,¬†shred, chop or tear; works well with curries, legumes, spicy Indian dishes;
  • Interesting and useful: for maximum nutrition it is best eaten steamed;¬†steaming and/ or sprinkling it with lemon juice decreases¬†bitterness¬†in the taste of kale.¬†When using it raw squash it well with your hands first. Excellent to use in juices. For a super delicious and healthy snack see recipe below.

Recipe: KALE CHIPS:

1 bunch of fresh kale leaves washed  and well drained

2 tbsp olive oil (melted ghee works well too)

salt or soy sauce

nutritional yeast (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Shred or chop kale leaves into bite sized pieces and put them in the baking tray. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt or soy sauce, toss with your hands until leaves are evenly coated. If you want you can sprinkle it with nutritional yeast too, it will give it an extra yummy flavour. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until kale is dark green and crunchy. If you are curious, try experimenting with adding spices and herbs. Enjoy ūüôā

I have nothing more to say, other than try it, use it, it’s super good for you.

And also: I¬†‚ô• kale! ūüėÄ

Maja

p.s.:  In case you would like me to write about a particular food, just drop a comment or a message on my email and I will see, that you get your answer.

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

–¬†http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38

–¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale

–¬†http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

Food & Fact: GRAPES (and RAISINS)

Hello everybody,

This week’s fruit is widely liked when eaten fresh, but surprisingly its dried version is not so popular (though very healthy and useful, as you will see). Yep, I am talking about:

GRAPES (and RAISINS):

1038791-pola

  • Vitis vinifera
  • Buying & Storing: look for bright colour, firm flesh and smooth skin in fresh grapes; store in a cool and dark place;
  • Important: grapes are one of the Dirty Dozen¬†from the Environmental Working Group 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, because they are usually heavily sprayed with pesticides, thus it is absolutely recommended to buy them organic; alternatively, wash them VERY well;
  • A good source of:
  1. Ellagic acid: deactivates carcinogens;
  2. Flavonoids: in grape juice; protect the heart;
  3. Resveratrol: in red wine and red grape juice; protective effect on the cardiovascular system;
  4. VITAMINS: vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, carotenes, B complex vitamins (pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine);
  5. MINERALS: boron, potassium, copper, iron and manganese;
  • RAISINS =¬†dried grapes; good source of fiber and especially high in iron;¬†use only sulphur-free raisins that have not been sprayed with mineral oils;
  • Actions: antioxidant, antiviral, anticancer;
  • In Ayurveda: highly regarded in Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of debilitated and toxic conditions; best for Vata and Pitta, light enough to be eaten by Kapha. Raisins well soaked in water balance each dosha;
  • Culinary uses: GRAPES are sweet and blend well with most fruits. RAISINS add natural sweetness, golden sultanas are a good variety for cooking.
  • Interesting and useful: In Shivananda yoga raisins are regarded as a cure against being overly critical, they promote gentleness. Raisins can be used as a sugar substitute in baking – instead of 1 cup of sugar use 1 cup of raisins and soak them in water, blend well, mix with other liquids used in the recipe and then combine with dry ingredients. I only use raisins and dates in baking and dessert making. Works like a charm!

Recipe: IRON-RICH BREAKFAST DRINK:

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup (unsulfred) dried apricots and peaches

1 cup of water

Soak raisins and dried fruit overnight in the water. In the morning blend well & drink.

 РThe Ayurvedic Cookbook

When preparing these posts I learn or revise A LOT of super interesting information and every time I am amazed how absolutely perfect Nature is, giving us everything we need to nurture our bodies properly.

Enjoy some¬†healthy¬†natural goodies! ūüôā

Maja

p.s.:  In case you would like me to write about a particular food, just drop a comment or a message on my email and I will see, that you get your answer.

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food For Body And Mind: Shivananda Yoga Centre, Shivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres

–¬†http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/grapes.html

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grape

–¬†http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

Food & Fact: APPLE

Hello everybody,

I hope you are having a good start of the day & week! In case not, check the weekly inspiration (right side of the screen —->), maybe it helps a bit.

As promised, this is the first Food & Fact, where we will explore useful and interesting facts about food in short & sweet posts, so look no further.

I was thinking and thinking what should be the first food – something special, exotic, surprising… But then I reminded myself – dooh, this is supposed to be above¬†all useful! Though, for sure I don’t promise, you will never be surprised. ūüėČ

So ta-daaaaaa one of my favourite foods, that I eat practically every day.

APPLE:

apples-pola

  • Malus domestica/ Malus pumila
  • Buying & Storing: look for apples with firm, crisp flesh and tight, smooth skin; store in cool, dry and dark place;
  • Important: they are found on the Dirty Dozen list of the Environmental Working Group 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which means, it is highly recommended to buy them organic; alternatively, you can wash and peel them before eating, which is a pity because numerous nutrients are otherwise present in the skin;
  • A good source of:
  1. FIBER: soluble and insoluble; pectin;
  2. VITAMINS: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B2 (riboflavon), vitamin K;
  3. MINERALS: boron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron;
  • Actions: tonic, digestive, diuretic, detoxifying, laxative, antiseptic, lower blood cholesterol,¬†anti rheumatic, liver stimulant;
  • In Ayurveda: qualities of sweet, light and cool; useful for cleansing,¬†particularly¬†in¬†autumn¬†fasts, to reduce ama related to aching joints, sinusitis and headaches; best for Kapha and Pitta, Vata, if apples are well cooked and spiced;
  • Culinary uses: apples blend well with most fruits and vegetables, they add natural sweetness and lots of¬†fiber can be used raw and cooked (yum yum);
  • Interesting and useful: 1 apple yields approximately 1 cup/250 ml;¬†apple sauce¬†can be used in recipes as natural¬†sweetener¬†and/or partly as a substitute for oil/butter in recipes for baked goods.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

Hope you enjoyed this post, there are more like this to come. If, you think I need to add or correct something, please let me know, we can all benefit from it. Also, in case you would like me to write about a particular food, just drop a comment or a message on my email and I will see, that you get your answer.

Enjoy your apples! ūüôā

Maja

p.s.: As I write these posts I will also be compiling a Glossary, where you can check a short definition of some terms used in the post (for example: vitamins, minerals etc.).

Resources:

The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,

The Ayurvedic Cookbook: Amedea Morningstar with Urmila Desai,

–¬†http://www.livestrong.com/article/470237-does-the-apple-skin-have-the-most-nutrients/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple

–¬†http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/