Everyone loves the taste of chocolate and those who like to indulge every now and then should know that there is a way to satisfy their craving in a healthier and more nutritious way!
'Cacao' is one of the main components of all chocolate, although you may have heard the word 'Cocoa' used more often. Generally 'Cocoa' refers to a more processed chocolate product with added sugar, as opposed to raw Cacao which has no sugar and is in its raw and natural state.
Most people are unaware that Cacao has one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of all known food! It boasts a high level of many amazing nutrients, especially magnesium, iron and zinc. These three are key for healthy blood formation, brain and heart function and strong bones. Cacao is full of health promoting and beautifying fatty acids and minerals, as well as a top source of nutrients that support mood and the immune system. It has been used for thousands of years to boost health and energy levels and infact the generic name 'Theobroma' is derived from Greek which means "Food of the Gods."
The main differences between raw organic chocolate and commercially processed chocolate are the processing methods used and the added ingredients:
Commercially processed chocolate:
- Highly processed through intense high heating method which ultimately 'burns' out all the nutrients of cacao.
- Made by gently heating to temperature of a maximum of 40c (104F). This ensure all of the enzymes are kept intact and the amazing nutrients are still present.
Commercially processed chocolate:
- Has a list of added ingredients such as white refined sugar, milk products, palm oil many other ingredients that we should all be avoiding in our diets. These ingredients include nasty chemicals, additives and preservatives.
- The end product is highly refined and processed and holds no nutritional benefits. Excess consumption can lead to diabetes, weight gain and many other health issues.
- Has a maximum of 4 to 5 plant based ingredients. Each ingredient has its own nutritional benefits, and being raw, they are readily absorbed by the body ensuring you reap all the health benefits.
- Raw chocolate has no refined sugars and is sweetened using a natural form of sugar such as coconut nectar, raw honey, agave or maple syrup.
- The final product is natural, organic and pure and is suitable for people with different dietary needs such as vegans, vegetarians, people following a gluten/wheat/soy or lactose-free diet and even diabetics.
We are all love to indulge once in a while so make it a guilt-free treat and take advantage of the many nutritional benefits in raw chocolate!
When it comes to food and health, as Hippocrates once said, 'Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’.
This is one I fell for myself a few years back. So many vegans and raw foodists rave about agave that I didn’t really stop and think it could be too good to be true. Agave is a super sweet liquid that is often touted as the “healthy” or “low GI” alternative to sugar. A lot of research has confirmed that it’s hardly any better than high fructose corn syrup. Agave is also mostly highly processed, and super high in fructose.
What should we eat instead? Raw Honey, Maple Syrup, Date paste, Stevia, Coconut sugar, Yacon and Molasses...These are all great alternatives, make sure they are pure and good quality with no added ingredients.
Microwaveable popcorn is a highly processed food and is high up on the list of the unhealthiest foods you could consume. Practically every component of microwaveable popcorn, from the genetically-modified (GM) corn kernels to the processed salt and preservative chemicals used to enhance its flavor, is unhealthy and disease-promoting. On top of this, microwaveable popcorn contains a chemical known as diacetyl that can actually destroy your lungs. You might be reassured to learn that the buttery flavor in microwave popcorn typically comes from a chemical actually found in butter, but you shouldn't be. This chemical, called Diacetyl, is so toxic that it commonly destroys the lungs of workers in microwave popcorn factories, afflicting them with the crippling and irreversible disease known as Bronchiolitis Obliterans. This disease is so rare outside of this context that it has become more commonly known as "popcorn lung," after the primary cause of the disease.
Regulators and health professionals have known of this risk for decades, but always assumed that it would only affect people breathing in especially high concentrations in factory settings. Then in 2007, a man who regularly ate two bags of microwave popcorn every day was diagnosed with popcorn lung, indicating that Diacetyl enters the air and lungs when microwave popcorn is cooked. Anxious to reassure consumers, most microwave popcorn companies phased out Diacetyl -- only to replace it with chemicals that have the same effects.
Today, you can still find Diacetyl in many flavored snack foods and even in some so-called "natural" foods. Make sure you read the ingredients of any food you intend to consume, and make sure it contains no Diacetyl (and no "yeast extract" for that matter, either).
If you love popcorn, stick with organic kernels that you can pop yourself in a kettle and douse with healthy ingredients like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and Himalayan pink salt.
Soy products have been the craze for the last few years with some people swearing by them and others condoning them for the long term negative effects on the body. Soy is one of the most processed foods out there, there are however many variations on how its made and used and whilst some are bad for you, others are ok. Contrary to common belief, asian cultures don't live on soy foods, and when they do eat them, its usually in a fermented form that holds health benefits for the body.
Soy milk in my books is a big no-no as it is always extremely processed and honestly has no nutrients at all.
When it comes to Tofu and Tempeh, which one is a better choice? Tofu is a blank canvas, ready to take on the flavour of any spice, sauce or condiment it meets. It comes in a wide array of textures from soft to extra firm and is created by coagulating soybean milk (which in itself is processed) and pressing the curds into a block. Regular Tofu is usually packed in water in the refrigerator section of your supermarket. 'Silken' Tofu is packaged in a box and doesn't need to be refrigerated, it crumbles more easily then the regular one and is used most often in sauces and dressings. These versions are heavily processed and not the ideal choice for regular Soy consumption.
Tempeh is much less processed then Tofu, which makes it a smarter choice on a regular basis. While Tofu has practically no flavour and is soft, Tempeh has a nutty taste and firm texture. It is a great choice if you're trying to mimmick the taste of meat in your recipes and is produced by cooking and fermenting whole soybeans and then pressing them into a dense patty (you can actually see the soy bean in the product itself as in the picture below on the left). I also just want to mention that fermented foods are great for us because they increase good bacteria in the gut. Tempeh contains about 35% more protein then tofu and about 7 times more fiber too! The reason for the higher level of nutrients is that it is less processed and has therefore retained more nutrients from the original soybean. You'll find it in the refrigerator section of your supermarket.
In most cases, the fresher the vegetable, the healthier it is. Tomatoes however are the exception! Tomatoes are rich in Lycopene and your body can absorb more from cooked tomatoes than those that are fresh and uncooked.
The cooking/processing of tomatoes makes for more Lycopene availability in the final product. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that protects and rejuvenates our skin. It provides antioxidant protection from environmental damage, shielding skin from premature aging and reducing skin cell damage. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Tomatoes are also packed with Beta-carotene, vitamin C and Vitamin E to keep skin looking young and fresh. I personnally always buy tomato paste/sauce in jars rather then cans as there is no leakage from the contianer into the food. You can also make your own tomato paste, this is an Easy Recipe to make at home!
I’m a big advocate of buying fresh whole foods and steering clear of packaged goods. Realistically though, many of us will end up with some packaged foods in our kitchen. Reading the label is your best guide to choosing the most healthful options. How can you tell whether one breakfast cereal, for example, is better than another? Here are some tips for checking the Nutrition Facts panel:
1- Check the serving size and servings per container. Serving size is always the first item on the label and tells you how many portions are in the whole box. All other information is based on that serving size.
2- Check the saturated fat and trans fat content of the food. For a general healthful diet, keep saturated fat and cholesterol low and avoid trans fat completely. Look for foods that have 0 grams (g) of trans fat (alias name is “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”) and are lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol.
3-Compare the sodium content to the calories per serving. You’ll want to keep sodium as low as possible. A rule of thumb: choose items in which the sodium content is less than or equal to the calories per serving. For a food with 250 calories per serving, look for a sodium content of no more than 250 mg.
4-Look at the fiber content of the food you’re choosing. Any food with more than 5 g of fiber per serving is a good choice for fiber. Aim for 25 to 35 g of fiber per day in total.
5-Look at the sugar content of the food you’re considering. Steer clear of foods that have sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, corn sugar, fructose, or high-fruc- tose corn syrup among the first three ingredients. Other sugar aliases to watch for include agave nectar, brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltose, fruit juice concentrate, and glucose.
6-Decipher the percent daily value. Located on the Nutrition Facts label, the percent daily value is based on someone who eats exactly 2,000 calories a day. It’s a useful tool to compare the nutritional value of two items quickly (assuming the serving size is the same). As a general rule, when the percent daily value
of a particular nutrient is around 20% or more, that’s considered high in that nutrient. That can be a good thing if it’s fiber we’re talking about, but not so good if it’s sodium or saturated fat.
Remember that the reason fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains don’t have nutritional panels is that they don’t need it! Try to keep packaged foods to about 10% of your diet and eat whole foods 90% of the time. It will reflect greatly in your health!
Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs, keep your body warm, help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones too. Your body definitely needs fat – but quantity and quality is very important. There is so much information out there on what fats to eat and which ones to avoid. To make things more confusing, some go by alias names in the supermarket… if you don’t know your trans fats from your mono’s, today and tomorrow’s posts should make things clearer! We are going to look at the BAD fats today: Essentially they fall into 2 categories,Trans-fats and Saturated fats and they raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood and mostly lower your good cholesterol (HDL) levels. TRANS FATS are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid at room temperature. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils" or “trans fatty acids” so look out for that on food labels. Companies like using trans fats in their foods because they’re easy to use, inexpensive, act as a preservative for long shelf-life, and give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times in commercial fryers. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, and increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. They can be found in many foods, especially in fried foods like French fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and shortenings. SATURATED FATS have a chemical makeup in which the carbon atoms are naturally saturated with hydrogen atoms, and they are typically solid at room temperature (think butter). Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be aware that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol which raises your blood cholesterol even higher. The majority comes mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. Examples are fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. In addition, many baked goods and fried foods fall into this category. The general consensus in the medical world seems to be that saturated fat should be controlled and consumed in infrequently in small quantities. Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain primarily saturated fats, but do not contain cholesterol. As a general rule, be kind to your heart and body, avoid trans fats at all costs and limit saturated fats as much as posisble. Check my post tomorrow on the good fats that help lower your cholesterol.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. When added to our processed foods, it masks off flavors and makes the blandest and cheapest foods taste wonderful. Glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter that excites our neurons (not just in our tongues). This electrical charging of neurons is what makes foods with added free glutamic acid taste so good. Since free glutamic acid is cheap and since its neurotoxic nerve stimulation enhances so wonderfully the flavor of basically bland and tasteless foods, such as many low-fat and vegetarian foods, manufacturers are eager to go on using it and do not want the public to realize any of the problems. Unfortunately, MSG can cause problems in many people and has many documented side effects, especially in children. Adverse reactions include: Headache, Flushing, Sweating, Facial pressure or tightness, Numbness, tingling or burning in face, neck and other area, Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations), Chest pain, Nausea, Weakness and so on.
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that's "generally recognized as safe," the use of MSG remains very controversial. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.
How do you spot MSG on food labels? It goes under the food additive code E621. You also need to look out for the following ingredients on products as these ALWAYS contain MSG:
Glutamate, Monosodium glutamate, Monopotassium glutamate, Glutamic acid, Calcium caseinate, Gelatin, Textured protein, Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed), Yeast extract, Yeast food, Autolyzed yeast, Yeast nutrient.
When you have Chinese food, make sure you ask if MSG is added to your food and request that they remove it.
The short answer is: not necessarily! The low-fat craze started in the 80’s and 90’s when the diet industry declared fat as the enemy. Supermarket shelves filled up with low-fat products that claimed they were healthy for us and consumers filled their fridges and cupboards with them.
In most cases, low-fat ‘healthy’ products, advertised as such, simply are not very good for us as most of them are full of chemicals. When you take something away, like fat from yogurt, you have to replace it with something else to give it flavor and substance. This is usually sugar, salt and a plethora of other synthetic additives not to mention preservatives. Look at it this way, it’s extremely difficult to take your average cracker and simply remove all the fat without destroying its consistency. And the same goes for anything called ‘zero calorie’. If one cracker is 30 calories, and another is only 5, how does that transformation actually take place?
The answer is generally chemical. Undesirable parts are synthetically removed, and replaced with substitutes that have different nutritional properties. But these ingredients don’t always behave in the same way, so further additions need to be made in order to make a non-fat cracker seem like its fatter cousin.
In many cases, when fat is taken out, sugar is added to make up for taste.
For example, 3.5 ounces of regular Chocolate Swiss ice cream has 12.9 grams total fat and 17.5 g sugar. The reduced fat Chocolate Swiss ice cream has 10.1 g total fat and 25.5 g sugar. So 2.8 fewer grams of total fat, however it has 8 more grams of sugar. In some instances, you’ll find the sugar replaced with Aspartame, or another equally bad artificial sweetener with terrible effects on the body.
So next time you go to the grocery store and you reach for that low fat yogurt, take a look at the label. If you see ingredients you can’t actually pronounce, stay away! Instead opt for the real deal understanding that quality is more important than quantity. Always choose foods that are as natural and whole as possible.
Soy has been the craze for the last few years with the media and Soy industry heralding it as a health food. Many people have made the switch to soy products, soy milk, and have even put their babies and children on soy milk.
SOY IS NOT A HEALTH FOOD, it does not cure or prevent disease and has not even been proven safe yet... In fact many governements including the french government have issued health warnings against Soy (the US government has not yet followed suit succumbing to pressure from the Soy industry).
There are a few things that we do know for sure:
Soy is THE most processed food out there and devoid of most nutrients found in the original soy bean; Soy contains phyto-estrogens that are not real hormones per say, but most certainly act like hormones and can cause significant endocrine disruption in the body. They interfere with the normal production of Estrogen, Testosterone and other hormones in the body. We know for sure through several studies that Soy estrogens are NOT weak, despite what the media claims. They are potent and can affect your whole endocrine system, your thyroid and children's normal development. It is very important that soy products are avoided during child bearing years (there are many studies that indicate they contribute to infertility), during pregnancy (as they affect the normal development of the Fetus), infancy and puberty (they affect the normal growth of a child by dirsupting the hormone levels in the body) and finally around menopause.
My recommendation is that you eat soy foods occasionally in the form of Miso soup and tempeh for example which are the tradional forms. Do not make it part of your staple diet in the form of milk and other heavily processed forms...and please do not give it to your children! There are just too many well-documented risks and they far outway any potential benefits.
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