Monthly Archives: May 2012

Amazing Food Finds: Chocolate, Anyone?

So that’s chocolate as in cacao, raw cacao; that which all other chocolate and “chocolate” is born.  If you would ask anyone what thei impression of chocolate is, they would likely say some of the following…it’s sweet…my dessert of choice…it’s fattening, so I stay away from it…it’s a good caffeine boost…or to my die hard chocaholic sisters and brothers: it’s the death of me!

Well, you don’t have to thank me now–but Christmas has come early this year, my friends.  Chocolate does not actually have to be any of those things, and as I’ll describe, in its raw state, it is NOT any of those things.  Cacao is bitter.  Not sweet, in fact it’s not sweet at all until we add things to it.  So not sweet, that if you look at the nutrition panel on cacao nibs, you will see “Sugars….0 grams”.  So already I was interested, the clean foodie I am!  Fattening and unhealthy?  Negative.  Negative.  It’s a superfood in fact, and though that term gets tossed around quite a bit, there’s only a few of them out there–about 7, and raw cacao is one of them.  That means it possesses such a unique combination of nutrients that it measureably can promote life.  Take a look at these:

  • Raw cacao has more antioxidants than blueberries, green tea and red wine combined–more than 4 times over; so it  helps repair and resist damage caused by free radicals, and may reduce risk of certain cancers.
  • It helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, lowers LDL cholesterol, and reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks more than any other food.
  • It makes us happy (not just in mind, but actually scientifically):  Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain; thus acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS symptoms, and promotes a sense of well-being
  • The minerals that Cacao is rich in are endless, but Magnesium is at the top of the list: Cacao seems to be the #1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency, present in 80% of Americans, is linked with PMT, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and joint problems.
  • And no, it will not make you fat.  Just ask any of your overweight rawist friends (haha): That fats found in cacao are healthy fats…think avocado.  So it actually helps digest food, burns very easily as fuel, and keeps you feeling full longer.

The trouble is when producers, even the environmentally astute, even the 85% base bars that have handcrafted, recycled paper for wrappers, and had women in Ghana craft it…once chocolate is heated, even a little bit–it loses the benefits I mention above.  And heat typicallly comes along with added sugar.  Literal sugar, corn syrup–and a myriad of other unnatural sweeteners.  Sorry, organic cane sugar counts too.  And that’s when you start to get into weight gain, cravings, blood sugar spikes, etc.

So you’ve decided to believe me, and now you don’t knwo what to do with your decidedly bitter chunks of raw cacao.  I was surprised myself at how that bitterness can actually work FOR the cacao–you get a real richness, and decadence when you:

  • Sprinkle in your overnight oats, other cereals or kefir
  • And, shakes!  Forget about it.  Half a frozen banana, raw cacao powder, and unsweetened cocnut flakes…HEAVEN
  • Blend into coffee and teas
  • Make a chocolate bar/fudge…raw cocao powder, coconut oil, agave nectar, pinch of salt, scrape of vanilla, some nuts–you’re in business!! 

It’s really limitless!  But for now, I leave you with my favorite amazing food find yet.  At 70 calories for TWO TABLESPOONS…Emmie’s Raw chocolate sauce is heaven in a jar.  A delicacy to end all other delicacies.  100% raw, and 200% delicious.  Perfect in…everything.  And most perfect alone.  Still, you’ve got to get some raw cocoa nibs and powder too.  Totally versatile, and so super healthy.  Afterall, it is on that same coconut shortlist of super foods!  ENJOY!

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Amazing Food Finds: Excuse Me, Dr. Weil.

I’ve been a avid follower of Dr. Weil for many years.  He, the likes of Dr. Mercola, Chopra, Wolfe and many others have educated me,a nd guided me down the clean superfood path.  However, as of late (and by late, I mean last 5 years or so), I have become increasingly concerned about Dr. Weil and his business.  Well, the latter is what concerns me most.  The consummate anti-capitalist I am, I get very wary when food becomes business and vice versa.  I’m all about doing what you’re passionate about, and making a living doing so.  I love independent health food stores, and Farmer’s Markets are my joy.  But the more I see Dr. Weil appearing on the cover of this and that, vitamin line this, trademarked treatment of that.  I’m not mad, just wary.  And I became more wary when I was researching coconut oil the other day, and came across a post of his that states:

 The benefits of coconut oil in the diet, if any, are likely to be minimal, and until we have more and better evidence about coconut oil’s effect of metabolism and potential role in promoting weight loss, I do not recommend using it.

Shame, shame, Dr. Weil.  Coconut and all coconut products, INCLUDING oil is a superfood.  One of the esteemed short list of about a dozen, and has been proven time and time again, both officially and unofficially to:

  • IMPROVE heart health through its unique chain of triglycerides, which are not found in ANY OTHER fat
  • Boost thyroid health
  • Increase metabolism
  • Promotes a lean body, and weight loss (because of the medium chain of fatty acids (MCFAs), the oil is easily digested and immediately burned as energy by your liver–unlike the longer shains present in other oils which take longer to digest and therefore are often stored as fat.)
  • Supports a healthy immune system 

Dr. Mercola actually has a short artcle about coconut oil, in which he references farmers back in the 40’s who gave coconut oil to their livestock in an effort to fatten them up, and all it ended up doing was making them lean, hungry and energetic!  Of course, Dr. Mercola is not alone, and neither am I.  Pacific Islanders swear by the stuff, and have nearly non-existent cardio issues.  And, if you need another reason to make the switch, coconut oil is the ONLY oil that is safe to cook with at high temperatures, due to its stable and Omega-3 rich nature.  Yes, including the EVOO.  Olive oil is an excellent mono-unsaturated fat source, and should be used as dressings and dips. just not heated–heat destroys its beneficial properties. 

So how do I cook my eggs, you may ask!  Herein lies our next Amazing Food Find!  Coconut Oil spray.  What a lovely, healthy superfood invention.

 

 

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Amazing Food Finds: To Soy, or Not to Soy

That is the question, and has been the question for over a decade amongst many in the Nutirion world.  It of course is not only a go-to for non-meat eaters, but is found in many processed foods and hidden in places you wouldn’t expect.  Think everytime you see the phrases: soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate or textured vegetable protein listed in the ingredients.  For the most part, the jury is still out on whether consumption of soy products, like Tofu, are harmful to the health.  Some of the opponents to soy products argue that soy raises estrogen levels in humans, which is particularly concerning in men as reports of breast development, sex drive decline, and hair growth slowing has been reported.  As for women, the argument follows reasoning being fertility issues, thyroid issues, and infant abnormalities.  Again, the jury is out, but there is one thing for certain:  If you do chose to consume soy products, they must be organic.  Moreso than any other of the “dirty dozen”, soy products which are not organic, are RIFE with harmful chemical pesticides, that are directly linked to hormone regulation. 

Anyway, choose your soy products wisely, and don’t be afraid to experiment.  If you currently drink soy milk, try almond.  And if youImage love veggie burgers, but are now reading the ingredient list in horror at the amount of NON-organic soy is contained in each one, try these.  Dr. Praeger’s California Veggetable Burgers.  I love these because they are ACTUALLY vegetable burgers.  Not some strange concotion of barely readable ingredients, and mounds of unhealthy soy.  Remember, just because it doesn’t have meat, doesnt mean you shouldn’t read the label!  Dr. Praeger loads in the vegetables and has minimal binders, making these a healthy, not to mention absolutely delicious choice for anyone looking for a satisfying “clean” veggie burger experience!  Have with an Ezekial burger bun, arugula, red oinion and some stone ground mustard…YUM!

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Amazing Food Finds: Dessert Edition, part 1

Yes, desserts!  A lot of people ask me: “How do you manage to avoid eating sweets?”  Then they follow with their personal stories of avoidance, willpower, and determination against sugar.  Well all sugar except the donuts they had at work one morning that they couldn’t refuse.  And of course, let’s not forget about cheat day where anything goes!

Well, I’m not sure where anyone got the idea I don’t eat sweets, because I delight in them at least three times a day, sometimes four.  In my own experience, and my observation of others, the solution to sweet cravings, is to simply…EAT SWEETS!  I didn’t say sugar.  I said sweets.  Dried fruits stuffed with cinnamon spiked almond butter (or PB2!)…Larabar/pure bar portions…fresh fruit with a light dollop of raw honey…Eating raw and dried sweet foods throughout the day will set you up for success.  Ask any raw foodist.  And believe me I did during my 2-week Raw experience–as long as you avoid refined sugar, you will not gain a pound, and you can dig in throughout the day.  Ever met an overweight Raw foodist?  Me either.  But believe me, I was shocked at the amount of sweetness there is in the diet.  You won’t need a donut, you’ll be able to cut out the cheat day (which, let’s be honest is there so you can eat white flours, refined sugars, salty things, alcohol, etc.), and maybe most importantly in terms of weight control–stop the night time grazing.

ImageBut this post isn’t really about philosophy of desserting, it’s about this:  Chocagave.  Any chocolate lovers out there?  Anyone interested in rich, dark chocolate sans refined sugar?  I know I was!  It’s 70 calories for TWO tablespoons!  Tablespoons are big!!  And this stuff is goooood.  Warm a sliced banana in the oven for a few minutes, slather on some raw chocolate sauce, add a few tablespoons of crispy brown rice cereal, and a sprinkle of sea salt.  DE.LIC.IOUS.

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Amazing Food Finds: The Snack Edition

ImageSnacks!  I recall when I first really started eating clean, and restricting to my diet to healthy fats, fruits & veggies and grains, I felt like I was condemning myself to a snackless life.  Nope, fruits don’t count.  I mean they are delicious, and they are snackable, but an apple will never be a pretzel, no matter how much you twist it!  But, even in my sugar mourn, I thought there had to be an alternative solution to just apples and carrot sticks.  In fact, that’s where most my food research and discoveries derive from: my resistance to a monotonous food life.  I really hardly ever eat the same thing the same way.  And with enough scanning the shelves, being brave enough to enter the center aisles (yes, even Whole Foods is a danger zone when you leave the perimeter, but that’s a blog for another day (and soon! they pissed me off again, recently…)), and reading enough of those freebie health watch magazines–I have devised quite an extensive snack food cabinet.  By the way, those little 12 page magazines they give away can have some of the best recipes and new product watch information!

ImageBefore I go into my list of fave’s, let’s first be clear on the snack food requirements, and rules for execution (or, consumption if you prefer 🙂 ).  Here are the rules: There most be at least one whole grain listed as the number one, main ingredient before anything else.  And it should be an interesting one.  Not simply whole wheat everytime (by the way, everyone knows that “wheat flour” is just another word for white/enriched flour, right?  Good.  Check.), and preferably lots more whole grains somewhere in the very short list of ingredients.  Which brings me to the next rule: There should only be a short list of ingredients, and the producers shoudl be really proud of them, and express so somewhere on the package.  They may even put the ingredients on the front of the package, or write them in funny font, or rave about them elsewhere on the packaging.  Next: No added refined sugar, period.  No sugar, with exceptions.  Sugar naturally occuring in grains is of course great, and if there’s dried fruit involved that’s sort of okay too, but it should be further down the list.  My next rule: Avoid added oils.  And if there are oils, then make sure it’s high Imageoleic (these oils are able to be baked at high tempuratures due to a lower level of Omega 3’s, which eliminates hydrogenation from occuring (by the way, the high amounts of healthy omega 3’s in Olive Oil makes it UNsuitable for cooking, as it becomes toxic at high temperatures), thus providing the healthful effects of lowering cholesterol, etc.–it’s never going to be like eating the fats of an avocado, but its something your body will be able to sort of smile about!).  And finally, the snack must be versatile!  I want to be able to dunk it, smear it, crunch it, layer it, and love it.  Phew!  That’s a lot of rules!  Aren’t you glad I did the leg work for you!  Now, if all these rules are followed–no sugar, lots of grains, healthy fats, short list of pretentious ingredients–I don’t even bother looking at the calories, because I know they will work for my body.

Now, last but not least, a snack is just that–a snack.  It is not a meal replacer, it’s a meal accompaniment.  Preferably with a veggie or fruit along with.  Think nut butters (PB2!) and celery or apple.  Or guacamole and hummus with a few carrots, or dilled cucumbers.  They are not to be grazed on the whole day long, but rather enjoyed at a designated time.  And if you feel so compelled, count it out.  Make a serving size for yourself, separated out from the rest, because believe me–it will be hard to put the package down once you’ve started!

Stay tuned for some of my fave sweet snacks, and a few more salty ones too!!

 

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Amazing Foodie Finds: Installment One

Well, before I get into my latest food crazes, another heart felt thank you to My Sister’s Pantry for nominating me for a Sunshine Award!  I’m such a fan of so many of your thoughts and expressions, I’m truly humbled to that some of you might care what I’m thinking too!  So to honor this nomination, i thought I’d dive into a series of posts that I’ll call Amazing Foodie Finds!  Whenever friends or family comes into my kitchen, it seems their dedicated mission to check out my pantry, fridge and freezer to see what new stuff I’ve gotten into.  One of the most fun aspects of food for me has always been exploration and experimentation.  I consider it a personal challenge, from breakfast to dessert to find healthful, delicious alternatives to the otherwise saturated, sugerfied, salt based options out there.  So my first item, that I’m loving as an accompaniment to my overnight oats, breakfast smoothies, “ants on a log” snacks, quick Ezekial sandwiches, thai sauces, and of course all desserts is…….:

ImageIt’s like miracle powder!  So essentially, what these wizards have done is develop a process to press all the oils out of the nuts so that what you have left is practically pure protein.  In a quick comparison to regular peanut butter, this jar of PB2 has almost 90% less fat because of the absence of oil, equal amount of protein (5 g/serving), and there’s no cholesterol to speak of at all.  And for anyone counting, you can have 2 Tablespoons of this PB and it will only set you back 45 calories!  That’s 45 vs. the typical 190 in regular peanut butter.  Typically, when something is taken out of a food, something else much less appealing compensates–sugar and/or salt usually.  Or worse, fake fat is added.  Fake fat=Trans fats, and other preservatives and additives that I can’t pronounce, spell, and would sooner do a sun fast before having them in my kitchen!  See margarine craze from the 90’s.  PS. Did you know when margarine first came out, no one was buying it because in all its fakeness it was white, so people could conceive of melting it on their toast or baking pie crusts with it.  But then after much battle with the dairy industry, who had been preventing it from being yellow like butter, the margarine guys finally convinced everyone that they should be able to turn it yellow so they could actually reach the consumer.  The rest is history!

But, wait!  Not so fast.  Before you rush out and get a jar (which, I think you totally should–this stuff truly is delicious, creamy and can be used in even more ways than traditional peanut butter), do exercise some caution and consciousness.  The fats that have been removed do fall under the “healthy fats” category.  So without them, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting those fats in other ways.  Personally, I eat so much avocado, coconut, coconut oil, seeds and nuts (maybe even too much!), I can enjoy PB2 without feeling emptiness and cravings for that fatty satiation.  Something that happens when people eat fat free/reduced fat this, that and the other is that those cravings are never fulfilled and so they go reaching for sweets and salty stuff on top of the favor they thought they were doing for themselves.  Result?  Well, consult the scale for an answer to that.

So, the lesson here is that PB2 should be enjoyed as part of a balanced, clean diet.  And trust me, you will enjoy it!  I wish there was an almond one!  AB2.  Love it already!

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