Archives for the month of: February, 2013

Just a few minutes after finishing my post on coconut yesterday and just days after my post on Alzheimer’s, I stumbled across this amazing article on Coconut oil and Alzheimer’s.

It’s well worth a read.

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Last night I cooked this delicious chicken and sweet potato curry:

curry

I enjoyed it so much I had to share it with you, and the best thing about it is it’s made with coconut oil (instead of olive oil) and coconut milk. I just can’t get enough of coconut these days. For one thing, it makes everything taste lovely – it’s especially nice for adding flavour to meals and desserts when I’m trying to avoid sugar – but it’s also really really really good for me. Hurrah! It’s always nice when something you love turns out to be good for you.

So here we go with some of the health benefits. Coconut:

  • is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-parasitic;
  • is packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and amino acid;
  • is good for bone health;
  • is good for the skin: it helps healing and keeps you looking young;
  • boosts the immune system;
  • helps prevent obesity;
  • improves heart health;
  • has a low glycaemic index;
  • is great for digestion;
  • boosts energy and improves athletic performance.

And that’s just the beginning. For a more exhaustive list of health benefits and for more information on the list above, have a look at one of these sites:

www.care2.com

www.coconutsecret.com

www.coconutresearchcenter.org

Personally, I’m taking all of this to mean we should eat coconut as often as possible so here are a few ideas of how to get your daily dose:

Unsweetened desiccated coconut: bake with it, add it to porridge or muesli, mix it with nuts and seeds, or try it in hot milk with honey (one of my mum’s favourite snacks);

Dried coconut: excellent for snacking;
Coconut milk: Great for making curries and ice-cream, and if you’re a coffee lover, you might want to try this coconut latte. It’s still on my list of things to try very soon;

Coconut sugar: This is better for you than normal, refined sugar because it is rich in nutrients and has a lower glycaemic index. I’m hoping to use it for the first time to make my Dad’s birthday cake this weekend (hopefully…maybe) so watch this space;

Coconut flour: I haven’t tried baking with this yet, but I’m definitely up for trying it.

And now for the best one of all, Coconut oil!

You may have noticed I use it in quite a few of my baking recipes instead of oil or melted butter. I also use it when cooking soups, baby food, curries and all sorts of other dishes because it is wonderfully aromatic and adds real flavour.

According to several sources, Coconut oil is the healthiest oil in the world, helping with a whole range of health issues including lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes, aiding in skin repair, preventing osteoporosis, helping sufferers of chronic fatigue, improving metabolism, and possibly even helping treat Alzheimer’s. Again, for a more in-depth look at Coconut oil I’ll let more qualified people do the writing for me. Check out this site www.naturalnews.com.

A few other things that might interest you:

I’ve just read this article about oil pulling using coconut oil. I’m not so sure I’m ready for oil pulling yet, but it makes a very interesting read.

Coconut oil can be used to moisturise the skin and condition the hair. Again, not something I’ve tried yet but definitely worth looking in to.

So, to conclude, coconut rocks! Pina colada anyone? 😉

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Added 27/02/13: to find out more about how coconut oil may be used to treat Alzheimer’s, see here.

I hope you enjoyed reading Hayley‘s blog yesterday. Today, I’m sharing a piece about how drinking coke affects your body. Fascinating and terrifying in equal measure!

Here it is:

What Happens to Your Body If You Drink a Coke right now by Wade Meredith.

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Last Thursday, I started back at work after 10 months on maternity leave. To say it’s been a shock to the system would be an understatement and it’s meant I haven’t had much time for baking or writing this week. I haven’t even done as much exercise as I normally would, which has left me feeling a bit grumpy and lacking in energy.

I have, however, found a couple of brillaint articles/posts that I want to share with you so over the next few days I’m going to let other people do the writing for me.

Don’t worry, I’ve got loads of new recipes and ingredients I want to experiment with and lots more health and fitness tips to share in the next few weeks.

Today’s post is by Hayley Hobson, one of my favourite bloggers. In this post , Hayley writes about 10 foods that prevent Alzheimer’s. This is a subject very close to my heart as my gran has the disease. It might be too late to help her but it’s good to know that by eating the right foods I might be able to protect myself and my family from the same fate.

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Added 27/02/13: to find out more about how coconut oil may be used to treat Alzheimer’s, see here.

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I have some good news. Chocolate is good for you. Hurrah!

This doesn’t mean you can go to the shop, stock up on all your favourite chocolate bars and munch your way through them. Chocolate itself (cocoa) is good for you, but what’s added to it is generally bad: refined sugar, preservatives, emulsifiers, flavourings, vegetable fat, whey powder…etc. etc. All of these ingredients plus cocoa might make something that tastes nice, but they don’t do you any favours.

How to enjoy chocolate the healthy way:

You can enjoy chocolate and feel good about it if you find the right stuff. The higher the cocoa content the better because cocoa is packed with antioxidants. It is also high in magnesium: headaches, fatigue, low energy, disrupted sleep, PMS and even cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) are all symptoms of magnesium deficiency. These symptoms might be all too familiar, especially if you’re a woman. Hormones have an impact on levels of magnesium in your body so your magnesium levels might drop around the time of your menstruation every month, which is why you start craving chocolate.

So I think we’re all agreed: we want chocolate; we need chocolate; chocolate is good for us. But how can we get our antioxidants and magnesium without loading sugar, additives and unhealthy fats down us? Here are a few ideas:

  • Only eat dark chocolate and look for the stuff that’s 70% cocoa solids or higher;
  • Check the ingredients. There will still sugar added to most chocolate you buy but the less sugar and fewer ingredients, the better;
  • Cook with or flavour your food with pure, unsweetened cocoa powder;
  • Check these cocoa wafers out from one of my favourite websites: www.changinghabits.com.au.

And now for my top tip of the day: buy yourself some cocoa nibs.

If you want to get all the benefits of chocolate without any sugar at all, you need to get cocoa nibs. I’ve recently discovered them and I think I’m addicted.

Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces. For an excellent explanation of all the health benefits of eating cocoa nibs (and there are a lot more than I’ve touched on here), see here.

I’ve only just begun to experiment with cocoa nibs, but here are a few ways to enjoy them:

  • Stir them into your porridge for added crunch;
  • Yogurt, blueberries and cocoa nibs with a bit of organic honey makes an amazing pudding;
  • Bake with them. I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve seen some recipes where you can use cocoa nibs instead of/alongside chocolate chips;
  • Mix cocoa nibs with nuts and sultanas for a healthy snack to pick at throughout the day. The cocoa nibs themselves can be quite bitter when eaten on their own, but as soon as you add the sweetness of a sultana they’re delicious.
  • Add them to ice-cream. OK, so this is a bit of a naughty one but I only did it once and it was a real treat. It inspired me to find some clean eating ice-cream recipes like this one.

Happy chocolate eating, gang. x

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Here’s a delicious recipe to brighten your weekend, courtesy of my friend Jemma Parker. Be warned, it’s a bit too nice!

Ingredients:

100g (4 oz) oats
100g (4 oz) cheese, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
Pinch of black pepper

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Press into a greased tin so the mixture is about 1″ thick. Bake for around 20 mins until golden on top, remove from oven. Cool slightly before cutting into pieces (makes 14-16 fingers).

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Good morning. Happy Valentine’s Day for yesterday!

How did it go? If you were lucky enough to be taken out for dinner last night, did you manage to resist pudding? Don’t worry if not; just count that as your cheat day and treat yourself to a lovely, sugar-free weekend.

We’re nearly at the half way mark and you might be starting to struggle without your normal quick energy fix: you might be feeling tired and grumpy after a long week of work; you might also be suffering from headaches or feel ill and as if you’re going down with something. I know it’s not very pleasant but it’s normal to get withdrawal symptoms like this: sugar is a drug after all. Just remind yourself why you’re doing this and think how good you’ll feel if you manage to resist those sugar-monster urges.

Now that’s enough about sugar! It’s time to stop focussing on what we’re ‘not allowed’ and start looking forward to some really delicious meals for the weekend. If you’re missing pasta, why not try cooking a dish with Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash). Bake it in the oven and then scoop the spaghetti-like flesh out and cook with it. I found a fantastic recipe idea here on one of my favourite new blogs, www.ourlifeinfood.com. Check it out for inspiration.

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what we’re not allwingIf you are feeling a bit down in the dumps and need a treat, here’s a delicious snack recipe courtesy of my frined Jemma Parker:

Very moreish cheesy flapjack
I’ve found a delicious meal idea that might just cheer you up, especially if you’re missing your pasta. This recipe uses Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash) as a replacement for pasta

EatWellChef

By Hank Eder
Eat Well Foods Guest Blogger

Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? I heard this from my teachers and my mother when I was a boy. Since I really liked the taste and texture of crisp, juicy apples, I accepted this as gospel at the time. Now that my school days are long past, I find myself questioning much of what I once took for granted. What I found out about apples showed me just how right teachers and mothers can be. It seems the humble apple may indeed keep the doctor away.

Apples are rich in antioxidants  and phytonutrients. Back in 2000, researchers from Cornell University discovered that these phytonutrients (or phytochemicals) are responsible for the apple’s incredible antioxidant properties. According to the scientists who conducted the study, some of the phytochemicals are known to be anti-allergenic, some are anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-proliferative. What…

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If anyone out there is doing The Sugar-Free Challenge with me, how have days 1 and 2 been? Have you craved anything in particular, have you broken any of the rules you set down for yourself?

If you’re anything like me, this isn’t the first time you’ve tried to change your diet for the better. I’m constantly striving to be healthier and fitter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes my willpower buckles and I let myself down, which is never a nice feeling. However, recently I’ve come to realise that if I monitor myself as I go along, understand where I might be going wrong and then adapt the diet slightly, I won’t end up going crazy and eating everything in sight. This isn’t cheating; it’s just identifying what works for me.

On this latest sugar-free challenge I had promised myself a slice of soda bread with honey every other day. Today, day 2, was ‘soda bread and honey day’, but guess what? I didn’t just stop at one slice: I had a few slices and then I started getting cravings for all sorts of other sugary carbs. You’ll be glad to hear I didn’t give in to these cravings, but it made me realise that if I’m going to succeed on this 14 day plan (and beyond) I’ll have to completely cut out the soda bread and honey. If I don’t start it, I’m fine but once I start there’s no way I can just stop at one slice.

I guess what I’m trying to say is be kind to yourself. Don’t instantly think you’ve failed just because you slipped up once. Learn from it, adapt and keep on going until you get the results you want.

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s taken up the challenge so please get in touch.

Oh, and Happy Pancake Day! I hope you’re all enjoying your sugar-free pancakes. 😉

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In some of my recipes, I have been using alternatives to refined sugar such as fruit and dates. I have a very sweet tooth and I love to bake but I am also aware of what refined sugar can do to the body, so I’m determined to find healthier alternatives that still taste good. I ordered some coconut sugar last week, which has just arrived and I’m excited about trying it out. I’m going to have to wait a while to use it though because I’m on day 1 of my 2-week sugar-free challenge. You can join me and do the challenge yourself: for more information, see The Sugar-Free Challenge page.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it could be that sugar is the culprit:

  • Aching joints
  • Permanently blocked sinuses (you know that feeling when you think you’re going down with a cold, but it never quite happens?)
  • Always tired
  • Lethargic
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Thrush
  • Bad digestion
  • Fuzzy head
  • Forgetful
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Prone to mood swings

So, why is refined sugar so bad for us?

There is so much information out there about how sugar damages your health, so I’m going to stick to the basics and leave it you to find out the specifics if you want to. Let’s start off with the obvious.

Sugar is quite bad for you because

  • It leads to tooth decay;
  • It is high in calories and completely lacking in nutrients, which leads to weight gain and malnutrition.

Ok, you probably already knew those 2, but that’s just the start.

Sugar is terrible for you because

  • It supresses the immune system;
  • It promotes inflammation;
  • It speeds up the ageing process;
  • It raises insulin levels. In the short term, this means sudden energy slumps and food cravings. In the long term, this can lead to diabetes;
  • It robs the body of B vitamins, which are basically needed to keep your nervous system, muscles and tissues healthy and functioning. See here for more information.

For more information on the list above, there’s a great article here at www.nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com.

For a truly terrifying list of how sugar damages your health, see 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health at www.nancyappleton.com.

Now for the worst part:

The problem with sugar is that it’s just too tasty. No matter how much we want to hate the stuff, it’s very difficult to give up and that’s because sugar is a drug; it is addictive. There is an amazing lecture about this on YouTube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Prof. Robert Lustig, which I really recommend you watch if you are at all interested in the subject. Be warned, it’s over an hour long though!

What are the alternatives?

It’s important to remember that alternatives to refined sugar are still high in calories and will still raise insulin levels, so we shouldn’t go crazy and eat loads of them. However, it’s nice to have a sweet treat here and there and the alternatives in the list below contain more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, meaning they nourish our bodies when we eat them rather than stripping the nutrients from us.

  • Fruit
  • Dates
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Alternatives to avoid:

In my opinion, sweeteners are even worse than refined sugar and should be avoided at all costs. But that’s a huge subject in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

By now you’re probably beginning to hate me a little for making you feel bad about eating sugar, but please don’t!  I wish I could eat lots of sugar too. As I said in my very first post, “I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy”  and I like nothing more than enjoying yummy food with family and friends. Emotional health is just as important as physical health so I’ve had to find a balance that is reasonable and sustainable: I try to eat healthily most of the time, if I have treats at home I try to use the healthier alternatives, but I’m not going to beat myself up about the odd indulgent meal at a friend’s house or a delicious, sugar-laden pudding at a restaurant. Life is for living and enjoying after all!

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