Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Healthy Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

About Molasses
Isn’t it ironic that the waste product of manufacturing white sugar, is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic syrup? I’m talking about molasses. That gooey, rich, unmistakably black-brown nectar with a rather divisive flavour.
There are a few varieties of molasses, but to understand how they vary, let’s first look at how molasses is made.
Molasses is created from either sugarcane or sugar beets (but because the molasses made from beets can be quite bitter, sugarcane molasses is the most common variety available for human consumption). These plants are harvested, and then cut, crushed, and mashed so that the juice is extracted. “Fancy Molasses” is the first product to be made, but is in fact the only type of molasses that is not a by-product of sugar processing, but instead a direct product from sugar cane. This type is super sweet and is most commonly enjoyed as the syrup straight on pancakes or waffles, and as an ingredient in baked goods.
Varieties of Molasses
The real deal molasses comes from boiling the juice of sugar cane down to crystallize the sugars, producing a concentrate, the first of which is called First Molasses, First Strike Molasses, Barbados Molasses, Light Molasses, Mild Molasses, or Sweet Molasses. This comes from the first boiling of the sugar. It is light in colour and mild in flavour. Some people also enjoy this type directly on their food, like fancy molasses. It is about 65% sucrose.
Next up is Second Molasses, Second Strike Molasses, Dark Molasses, or Full Molasses. As you may have guessed, this is made from the second boiling of the extracted cane juice, a process that extracts even more sugar, producing a darker, thicker syrup typically used as a cooking ingredient in sauces, marinades and baked beans. It is about 60% sucrose.
Blackstrap molasses is likely the one all you health foodies out there know and love. This type of molasses is made by boiling the cane syrup a third time, which extracts even more sugar and concentrates the flavour. By this point, the sucrose content is so low (about 55%) that the syrup no longer tastes sweet, but slightly bitter. The colour is nearly black, and the consistency is very thick and viscous. Blackstrap molasses is used in baking, sauces, stews and even as a food supplement due to its high nutrient content.
Nutritious and Delicious
Blackstrap molasses is highly concentrated in essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, selenium, manganese, potassium, copper, and zinc. As I mentioned above, this type of molasses is sometimes used as a dietary supplement or tonic. One tablespoon stirred into warm water is a food-based way to boost mineral levels, especially iron, as this small amount contains a whopping 20% of your RDI. You can also enjoy it in foods such as smoothies, tea, warm cereal, or dressings, sauces and stews. Remember to eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C to enhance its absorption. I like to use a little lemon juice.
Blackstrap molasses is one of the few sweeteners that is low on the glycemic scale with an index classification of 55. This means that it metabolizes slowly in a controlled way, demands less insulin production and won’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels. All in all, blackstrap molasses is a fantastic, healthy sweetener to which I enthusiastically give a thumbs up!
 
Healthy Holiday Gingerbread
Makes at least 2 dozen medium-sized cookies
Ingredients:
2 ½ / 350g whole spelt flour
¼ tsp. fine grain sea salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. ground ginger (or less if you prefer more mild gingerbread)
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
½ cup / 70g coconut sugar
½ cup / 125ml unsulfured blackstrap molasses
3 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Sift the dry ingredients together.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, then whisk in the molasses, applesauce, and vanilla.
3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and fold to combine – you may need to use your hands to mix this, but don’t overwork the dough. Fold just until the ingredients come together evenly. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, make a ball, then flatten into a large disc. Wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Remove dough from the fridge, unwrap and cut in half. Wrap one half and return it to the fridge. Place the other half of the dough between two pieces of baking paper and roll out (if it is very stiff, you may need to let it warm up just slightly). Remove top half of the paper and cut out desired shapes with a cookie cutter or a knife. Slide a knife or thin egg lifter under each shape and place on a lined baking sheet. Ball up the scraps of dough, roll it out between the parchment and start again. Once the dough becomes too warm, return it to the fridge and repeat the entire process with the other half of the chilled dough.
5. Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes (7 minutes produces a softer, chewier cookie, while 10 minutes produces a crispier one). Remove from oven and let cool on pan. Decorate with the Cashew Cacao Icing if desired (recipe follows).

Cashew-Cacao Butter Icing
Makes about ¾ cup
Ingredients:
½ cup / 65g cashews
a few pinches of sea salt
3 Tbsp. / 40g cacao butter, melted
1 ½ Tbsp. raw honey (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
3 Tbsp. hot water

Directions:

1. Soak cashews with sea salt for four hours, or overnight.
2. Drain, rinse and place cashews in the most powerful blender you have along with all other ingredients. Blend on high until as smooth as possible.
3. Pour into a piping bag and store in the fridge until it firms up, about 2 hours, then use. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer. If you do not have a piping bag, you can also use sandwich bag with a teeny corner snipped off

When purchasing molasses, read the label to ensure that what you are buying is 100% pure molasses (some companies will cut blackstrap molasses with corn syrup to make it sweeter) and that it is “unsulfured”. Sulfur dioxide can be added to all grades of molasses to help preserve it, as it prevents the growth of bacteria and mould. From a health perspective, sulfur can cause reactions in sensitive people (you can read more about that here). Sulfur dioxide also has a very bitter flavour, and can drastically alter the flavour of the dish you are making. Look for organic molasses whenever possible too.
Store unopened molasses in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Opened containers must be stored in the fridge and will last for up to six months.
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Cacao Nibs: Even Better For You Than Dark Chocolate

The Huffington Post Canada     Terri Coles    08/02/2013 

You’ve heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate, but did you know that you can benefit even more by eating the beans themselves, with less processing? Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks, and broken into smaller pieces.

Cacao nibs have a chocolatey taste, but they’re not quite as sweet as chocolate, which can make them more versatile. Their flavour can also vary depending on how much they are roasted, with hints of fruity or nutty flavours. It can be an acquired taste if you’re used to milk chocolate and bars with sweet fillings, but cacao nibs are a surprisingly useful ingredient. You can snack on raw cacao right out of the bag, add it to trail mixes or smoothies, or use it whole or powdered in your cooking and baking.

There are more differences between cacao and cocoa than just the spelling, at least in how we use the words. The beans come from the Theobroma cacao tree, and the word cacao comes from the Olmec people in what is now Mexico. It’s actually thought that the spelling cocoa originated as a mistake that stuck. So the two are technically referring to the same thing, but we generally use cocoa to refer to a more processed chocolate product with added sugar, versus the raw cacao, which has no sugar.

Magnesium: Cacao beans are one of the best dietary sources of magnesium — a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies — with 272 milligrams per 100 grams. It’s important for muscle and nerve function and keeps the heart rhythm steady.

Fibre: You don’t get any dietary fibre when you eat a chocolate bar, but you do get some when you snack on cacao nibs: one ounce has nine grams!

Iron: Iron, which is necessary for red blood cell production, is found in cacao nibs. An ounce of the raw nibs has six per cent of your recommended daily iron intake.

Cacao-Nibs

Antioxidants: Surely you’ve heard about the antioxidant power of dark chocolate — well, that goes even more for cacao beans, especially when eaten raw. Antioxidants are important for health because they absorb the free radicals that cause damage in the body.

Mood Improver: Neurotransmitters are the messengers in our brains that tell our bodies how to act, and that includes mood. Cacao’s ability to act on those neurotransmitters is why it’s known for its mood-enhancing skills. Chocolate and cacao stimulates the brain to release particular neurotransmitters that can trigger emotions — including good ones like euphoria. That’s why some people say chocolate is better than sex!

Phenylethylamine (PEA): This is a chemical found in cacao, one that our bodies also make naturally. We produce PEA, an adrenal-related chemical, when we’re excited — it causes the pulse to quicken, making us feel focused and alert.

Anandamide: Anandamide, a lipid found in cacao, is another compound tied to cacao’s feel-good properties. This lipid has been called “the bliss molecule”, because its natural molecular shape represents that of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Theobromine: Cacao beans do have a couple of controversial ingredients, though. One of them is theobromine, which makes up one to two per cent of the cacao bean and is a nervous system stimulant that dilates the blood vessels — much like caffeine. This ingredient is what makes cacao and chocolate unsafe for dogs, and some people find that it affects them the way caffeine might.

Oxalic Acid: Oxalic acid is a compound found in cacao that inhibits the absorption of calcium, a mineral that’s also found in the food. So though there is calcium in cacao, it’s not considered a good calcium source for this reason. The good news is that you’re getting more of the calcium by eating cacao than you are if you eat processed chocolate, because the sugar found in chocolate takes calcium reserves from the body.

Other foods also contain oxalic acid, including rhubarb stalks, black pepper, and poppy seeds.


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This Tasty Confection Helps Beat The Afternoon Mental Slump

The tasty food that boosts attention and potentially lowers blood pressure.

Dark chocolate can improve attention and a new formula may also lower blood pressure, a study shows.

Professor Larry Stevens, who conducted the study, said:

“Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way.
It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.”

The study measured the effects of eating 60% cacao chocolate (commonly called dark chocolate) on the brain waves of 122 participants.

They found that chocolate boosted attention and people were more alert for a period — although their blood pressure increased.

chocolate

Professor Stevens said:

“A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can’t pay attention, particularly students, so we could have a higher cacao content chocolate bar and it would increase attention”

The researchers also tried chocolate containing a substance called L-theanine.

L-theanine is a relaxant that is found in green tea.

Professor Stevens explained:

“L-theanine is a really fascinating product that lowers blood pressure and produces what we call alpha waves in the brain that are very calm and peaceful.
We thought that if chocolate acutely elevates blood pressure, and L-theanine lowers blood pressure, then maybe the L-theanine would counteract the short-term hypertensive effects of chocolate.”

The study found that participants who consumed this got the boost from the chocolate but the L-theanine reduced their blood pressure.

Although chocolate with L-theanine is not commercially available, Professor Stevens thinks there is potential:

“It’s remarkable.
The potential here is for a heart healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure and helps you pay attention.”

The study was published in the journal NeuroRegulation (Montopoli et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog


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5 Foods To Boost Your Mood

BY CAT ELLIOTT    FEBRUARY 20, 2015 

I struggled with depression for a large majority of my life. In the past I used food as a means of coping with my feelings — and when I say “food” I mean processed sugary comfort type food.

During my emotional binges I felt good (while armed with deep fried chicken in one hand and a burger in the other) but immediately after I felt sicker, sadder, more miserable and in need of my next hit. So I continued to eat poorly and abuse my body for a few years in the hopes to feel better. After inevitably gaining over 100 pounds, I realized I had to cut the crap.

I made changes to my diet and began to notice that certain foods improved my mental clarity, boosted my mood, gave me more energy and removed my junk food cravings. Eventually these simple changes in what I ate allowed me to sort out both my physical and mental blockages. The top five foods I found, and what research has also shown, to be effective are outlined below.

1. Cacao

There’s good reason why we often turn to chocolate when we are feeling down. But next time you find yourself in this state, reach for real chocolate in its natural state without the nasty hormone disruptive additives and chemicals: cacao.

Cacao is one of the highest food sources of antioxidants and magnesium, and it also contains iron, fiber, chromium and manganese. It has been shown to help with cardiovascular health, boost energy levels, promote longevity, increase libido and improve your mood. Add cacao powder or nibs to smoothies, baking, or keep some raw chocolate bars ready to go!

walnuts

2. Healthy Fats

In particular those foods loaded with omega-3s, such as wild salmon, sardines and walnuts have been proven effective to help improve depressive symptoms. Omega-3 content helps maintain healthy chemical levels in the brain. You could even look to incorporate wild fish oil as part of your daily diet.

3. Chili

Chili is not just a tasty addition to a dish, it’s actually been shown to increase the release of endorphins in the brain which boost symptoms of pleasure.

4. B Vitamins

By increasing the amount of B vitamins in your diet, you may begin to notice positive changes in your mood. Some excellent food sources that are rich in B vitamins are nutritional yeast, darky leafy greens, seafood, bananas, chicken, eggs, almonds, and avocados.

5. Real Food

The most dramatic change you can make to help ease your depressive symptoms and to lead a healthier life is by switching over to a diet of real food. By doing this you are removing processed junk, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners from your diet.

It may seem dramatic to say, but changing what I ate changed my life and quite possibly saved it. No bull. By making simple changes in my diet, I was able and willing to make bigger changes in my life, and in return, regain control of my life. I was able to admit my need for help, to nourish rather than to sicken myself, to get energy and motivation to exercise and get outdoors and become healthier and happier than I ever imagined. Just by starting with a few simple changes.


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8 Best Superfoods To Boost Your Mood and Energy Levels

BY PAULINE HANUISE    JANUARY 3, 2013 

Discovering superfoods has changed my life and was one of my first steps towards my recovery from eating disorders, and becoming healthier and happier. Now, I have them every day and that’s helping me to stay healthy and have great energy.

But what are superfoods, exactly?

Superfoods are basically foods that are much richer in vitamins, minerals, nutrients, electrolytes and phytonutrients, but also much poorer in calories than any other usual foods. They nourish your body on a very deep level.

Here are my 8 favorite superfoods to boost you mood and energy levels:

1. Maca powder

Maca is a root that comes from Peru. You will mainly find it as powder because it doesn’t grow in all climates So, it is dried and powdered to be exported in the rest of the world.

Maca is amazing for balancing hormones and is beneficial to both women (relief of PMS symptoms and menopause) and men (enhanced fertility). Maca is also a great adaptogen that helps decrease stress levels, enhance strength, stamina and libido as well as providing great energy and endurance. It works with the rhythms and needs of your own body.

Maca is rich is calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vit B1, B2, C, E and iron. It contains lots of trace minerals like zink and selenium and is great for menstrual imbalances, lack of libido, infertility, menopausal symptoms and stress but also for conditions such as anemia, fatigue, depression, poor memory, tuberculosis and malnutrition.

I usually add maca powder to my breakfast muesli, smoothies, juices, chocolate, desserts, etc.

Try adding maca into your diet and notice the benefits. (You can find more recipes here.)

2. Pure, raw organic cacao

YES, chocolate is a superfood! But I am not talking about the sugary, packaged chocolate bars you find at the supermarket. I’m talking about the real, original, raw, pure cacao. You can use the beans, which are quite bitter or you can find it in powder in any health food store to make amazing desserts like my wonderful Love Chocolate Pie or Sour Cherry Fudge.

Pure, raw, organic cacao is just amazing and to be honest, I am enjoying it every single day in healthy, sugar free desserts or smoothies. Because what’s bad about chocolate? It’s actually sugar, dairy and other additives that have been added to packaged chocolate you buy in supermarkets.

Cacao itself is great for your health and is nature’s number-one weight loss and high energy food, according to David Wolfe, the cacao master (watch his TEDx talk about chocolate here).

Chocolate is rich in antioxidants, magnesium, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc, copper, vit-C, phosphorus and more. It’s also rich in tryptophan, which is a powerful mood-enhancer, crucial in the production of serotonin, which diminishes anxiety and has the same impact as love in our brain. That’s why chocolate is often associated with love and Valentin’s day.

Add more raw, pure and organic cacao into your diet and start feeling amazing effects.

3. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a complete protein rich in fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and manganese. Just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 5 grams of fiber. So adding a tablespoon of chia seeds to your breakfast (cereals, smoothies, juices, etc.) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

But chia seeds are also very rich in vitamin C, Omega 3 and 6 and antioxidants. They absorb lots of water (about 10 times their weight). When you soak chia seeds, they will absorb lots of liquid and create a gelatine-like substance, which will clean your digestive and immune systems by moving all the toxins and impurities to the bowels.

Soaking chia seeds in coconut water or mashed fresh fruit for breakfast is great and chia puddings are also delicious and great for your health.

chia

4. Coconut (water, flesh/meat, oil and butter)

This is one of my favorite foods and drinks ever. The water inside the young coconut is an isotonic drink full of electrolytes and can even be used in blood transfusions. It is rich in potassium, is ideal for proper rehydration and has strong antiviral properties.

It also contains kinetin, which keeps the coconut young despite the fact that it’s under the sun all day long. Kinetin has the exact same effect on our body and keeps you young.

(Amazing isn’t it?)

Coconut meat is high in protein and fiber and is a great saturated fat (essential to our body). It’s been proven that the saturated fat in coconut oil supports the immune system, thyroid gland, nervous system and skin.

Coconut oil and butter are also a very healthy saturated fat and are perfect for cooking as it’s the only oil/butter that stays stable when you heat it (even olive oil is not perfectly stable when you heat it). Thus, using coconut oil for cooking is much safer and healthier than any other oils.

Personally, I only use coconut oil for cooking. I still use olive, hemp and flax oil, which are all amazing oils, but only for dressings. I also use coconut oil on my skin, as moisturiser as coconut oil is actually a top beauty product… and at a very cheap price!

5. Spirulina

Spirulina is a Blue-Green Algae, which thrives in alkaline lakes. It contains over 65% of complete protein (300% more than fish, meat or poultry, with 0 cholesterol). Spirulina is also very rich in chlorophyl, iron (about 58 times more than spinach), antioxydants, beta-carotene and essential fatty acid Omega 3 and 6.

Spirulina really helped me to have more strength and energy to recover from bulimia. It also fixed my anemia and I was able to get rid of my unnatural iron supplements.

Today, I am taking 3 to 6 grams of spirulina every morning. You can choose to use powder – which is the most powerful way as it’s directly absorbable by your body – and add it to your juices and smoothies. If you don’t juice or blend every day, you can use tablets (I personally find that the taste is too strong to mix spirulina powder with water only). You can change your dosage regarding your levels of energy, activity and your diet.

Spirulina is also great for people who have digestive issues as it helps improving the absorption of nutrients by your body.

As you can see, I love spirulina and I really recommend you to give it a try. I am pretty sure you will notice great improvements in your energy in just a few days 😉

6. Goji berries

Goji berries are a berry-fruit found in Asia and America. They are usually dried before being exported elsewhere in the world.

Gojis are probably one of the most nutritious berry-fruit found on the planet. They are a complete source of protein and amino acids, contain lots of trace mineral as well as vit B1, B2, B6, E and C. They are extremely rich in antioxidant, which protects you from the ageing process and free radical. They are also well-known to improve vision, boost libido, sexual function and immune system. Sounds great, right?

You can consume them in many different ways. Add them to your smoothies, breakfast, salads or use them in your trail mix or in your awesome chocolate desserts 😉

7. Hempseeds and oil

Hempseeds and oil are one of the rare complete source of protein (33% to 37% of its weight) and are packed with life-force energy and enzymes. They are rich in Omega-3, 6 and 9 which are all very important for brain functions and considered a quality beautifying oil.

Hempseeds and oil are great to boost your immune system and bring balance in your essential fatty

acids, thus are also decreasing inflammation. They deliver a balanced array of amino acids and are rich in minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, sodium, silicon, copper and many others.

Use the oil in in your dressings and sprinkle the seeds on your cereals, fruits, smoothies or salads, they are delicious!

8. Flaxseeds and oil

Flaxseeds (or linseeds) and their oil are one of the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health as our body doesn’t produce them on its own. The problem in our societies is that the big majority of people consume too much Omega-6 fatty acids and not enough Omega-3. However, the balance between both is absolutely vital to be healthy. Flax seeds and oil is one of the rare food that contains Omega-6 and 3 (EFAs – essential fatty acids) in perfect balance for the human body.

EFTAs are vital for brain function, energy production, oxygen transfer and strengthen immunity. Omega-3 fatty acids help to fight and prevent inflammation and many degenerative conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, etc .

They are many other superfoods great to try and add to your diet such as acai, bee products (bee pollen, royal jelly, honey and propolis), marine phytoplankton, aloe vera, wheatgrass or any seaweed, but here are the ones I am using the most to boost my mood and energy levels!