Category Archives: health

Chocolate Therapy

cacao

So I am doing the city to surf tomorrow! For those of you not from Sydney this is an annual 14 km running race that starts from the CBD and ends at Bondi Beach. I am totally unprepared as I signed up only 2 weeks ago and I have never run this far in my life! I am more of a swimmer than runner. The longest distance I have run is 8km and in the past year I have gone for a run probably 5 times, 4 of which were in the last 2 weeks lol! But hey, it has been on my bucket list for years and it just felt like the right time to do it! I’m not in it to win it, just to have some fun. It’s a bit late for tips for tomorrow but if you have any please share as I plan to do the bridge run in September (thankfully this is only 9km). How do you prepare for a relatively long run?

Now you’re probably wondering what has running got to do with chocolate? Well there is one more set back. This week I hurt my calf while running and I still do not seem to be able to run. Jog maybe but not for long. So it looks like I may be walking all the way to Bondi! And no I do not mean I have been drowning my sorrows with chocolate but it has played a role in my attempt at recovery.

So how do you help calf muscles recover? My wonderful trainer at Enliven Fitness gave me some simple yet valuable advice to rectify a calf injury: rest, stretch, heat, hydration and diet. Rest means I have not run but kept it moving with my walks to work. Stretching means I have stretched it out every night and lay my calf on my lacrosse ball to really release the localised pain in my calf muscles. Heat means I have applied heat with hot baths with Epsom salts and deep heat at night. Having a bath before stretching is especially helpful too as it warms the muscles up, allowing for deeper stretches.

My trainer advised that staying Hydrated is also very important which I am doing by drinking 2.5 L of water per day with a pinch of Celtic sea salt to aid absorption and drinking fresh coconut water after training. For my diet I should be increasing my magnesium intake by taking a magnesium supplement but I have run out. I remembered though that cacao is high in magnesium, which upon researching online I found that I was right. So whoopee!!! An excuse to eat chocolate! No seriously while it does sound tempting to eat chocolate every night this is not what I did, as chocolate also contains lots of sugar! Which we all know is not good for you.

The highest level of magnesium is found in raw cacao, however on its own this is very bitter and astringent. So I thought up some simple ways to eat raw cacao but still enjoy it. All of the recipes are gluten, grain and processed sugar-free and if you omit the dairy they are vegan and paleo-friendly too.
Every morning I made a delicious hot cacao drink instead of a coffee. This was great to have with my breakfast or for morning tea and with the coconut milk it is vegan and paleo-friendly. It is so simple too:

hot cacao

Just heat my choice of milk (full fat dairy or coconut milk are my choices) and whisk in 1 tbsp. of raw cacao. Pour it into a milk frother, froth it up or just pour it straight into the your mug. I like it like this but if that’s too bitter, you can sweeten it with cinnamon and/or maple syrup, or honey.

Now through my research I did find that the best combination for magnesium and hydration is coconut and raw cacao, so I also made my coco-berry power smoothie for breakfast, using the cacao variation. With the coconut water this is extremely hydrating and is paleo-friendly too! For a cheeky dessert I made a simple yet delicious raw coconut chocolate mousse. This is a paleo and vegan friendly dessert, so enjoy without the guilt!

See below for recipe:

 mousse

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 can of coconut milk, refrigerated over night
4 tsp. raw cacao
2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
Raspberries, mint and/or bananas to serve
Toasted shredded coconut and/or cacao nibs and mint leaves to garnish

Method

1. Take coconut milk out of the fridge and do not shake it. Open the can and scoop the separated coconut cream from the top into a separate jar and pour the remaining liquid into another jar.

2.Measure out 8 tbsp. of the cream into small bowl.

3. Add raw cacao and 1 tbsp. of the coconut liquid to the coconut cream and mix to combine. Add the maple syrup if you are using it (I don’t use it but for some people it is a bit too bitter without it). Add more liquid if the mousse is too dry or more cream if it is too runny.

4. Return to fridge for 1 hour.

5. Serve mousse with fruit and garnish of choice.

Variations

Mix some crushed raspberries and lime zest through the mousse.

Drizzle some raw chocolate through the cold mousse that has been in the fridge. Chunks should form throughout the mousse.

Vegan ‘Cream’

There are a range of options for ‘cream’ or frosting in vegan baking. This recipe uses cashews, nut milks and good old agar flakes. It is taken straight from “Vegan Pie in the Sky” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It is called Rad Whip and it really is rad! It is a bit like cream but yummier and is a great accompaniment to vegan pies and cheese cakes. I piped it onto some of my mango, coconut and lime cheeze cakes but you could also quenelle it on the side or on top for a more fancy dinner party look. I’ve made a few minor changes to the amount of agar agar and coconut oil and the instructions at end of the method. Otherwise it is exactly the same as Moskowitz and Romero’s recipe, so I must give them all the credit for it! If your looking for a good vegan dessert book go and get Vegan Pie in the Sky. It’s great!

RAD WHIP

Ingredients

1/2 cup whole raw cashews soaked in filtered water over night, until very soft.
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup plain almond milk
1tablespoon of agar agar flakes
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method

1. Place a large metal bowl in the freezer to chill, make sure its large enough for all the ingredients as you’ll be using this to blend up the Rad Whip latter.
2.Drain cashews and blend in the food processor or strong blender with the coconut milk and 1/2 cup almond milk until completely smooth. Rub mixture between your fingers to make sure there is no graininess left; reaching this state could take up to 10 minutes.
3. In a small saucepan, heat the other 1/2 cup of almond milk, agar agar flakes and sugar. Bring to boil and let simmer another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut oil and stir to melt. It’s important this mixture doesn’t set on the stove.
4. Stream the warm mixture into the food processor/blender with the machine turned on. Blend on high for about 1 minute to incorporate bubbles then add the vanilla and pulse to combine.
5. Transfer mixture to chilled metal bowl. Place in freezer for 30 minutes or until very cold but not frozen. It should be cold all the way through and feel firm and even a bit rubbery to touch.
6. Using an electric beater, beat it until soft peaks start to form. When smooth and fluffy, cover with plastic rap and place in fridge for at least 3 hours but overnight for best results. The longer the better! Now take it out again and beat again with an electric beater to get it even more fluffy.
7. Keep it stored in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

Roasted Cauliflower

With winter well and truly here, baking has become my favourite method of cooking. I bought some beautiful cauliflower at the markets yesterday. Usually I would boil it quickly and drizzle with olive oil but why not bake it? Cauliflower bake is an all time winter favourite but I usually avoid it as the hero of the dish, the cauliflower and all its health benefits are usually lost drowning in white sauce and copious amounts of cheese. I thought I would make a slightly healthier version and one that lets us taste the lovely nutty flavours of the cauliflower.

This dish is cheap, quick, healthy and delicious. The perfect week night dinner.
I’ve kept some cheese in the recipe as I think it adds just a bit of the richness you need from food in winter.

Ingredients
1/2 cauliflower, florets removed and divided into small – medium sized pieces
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic crushed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Teaspoon of chilli flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
Ground sea salt to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 180 Cm (fan forced).
Pour water into a baking tray big enough to hold all the cauliflower
Place cauliflower in baking tray, season with salt and bake for 20 minutes, or until stalks feel slightly soft (al dente)
Add garlic and parsley, stirring to combine
Sprinkle over cheese
Return to oven for 5 minutes, until cheese melted and slightly browned
Remove from oven, season with salt and chilli eat straight away or leave to cool.

Serving suggestions
Serve hot with a piece of grilled fish or chicken.
Chop the cauliflower and toss through wholemeal or spelt spaghetti, sprinkle with lightly toasted chopped walnuts, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan, extra chilli flakes and finely chopped parsley.
When cooled chop it up and add to salads.


 Cauliflower is a great cool climate vegetable to add to your winter menus. If cooked correctly it is not only delicious but has many health benefits too. From the same family as cabbage and broccoli, cauliflower has many nutrients associated with detoxifying the body and preventing cancer. It is also tipped to provide a good source of folate for pregnant women and a high fiber content also make it great for the digestive system. So really it has a health benefit for everyone!

Variation
Add 1/2 sweet potato diced at the beginning, and sprinkle toasted walnuts over it before serving, which makes this into a more substantial meal.  Cooking time may increase to 30 minutes at the start.

You can also remove the cheese and add 1 tablespoon of ground cumin, rubbing it into the cauliflower before baking. Serve this version with yoghurt.

I think I’m in Love

I have to confess, I am infatuated. Yes head over heals.  I just turned the corner and there they were…

At the organic expo: Loving Earth, a wonderful Melbourne based company that creates a range of scrumptious organic raw products. They seem to offer everything I was looking for in one shop! This is great for the diet but not so much for the wallet. But then hey, I have decided to spend my money on health and taste before fashion and alcohol no?

Their products cover a range of raw fooders/whole fooders ingredients such as agave nectar, raw cacao products, raw butters, raw olives, fruits nuts and seeds. Their major draw cards, however, are their range of raw snack foods and raw chocolates. These include organic raw chocolates of many delectable flavours, organic sweet coconut and cacao spread, organic activated flavoured nuts*, organic raw flavoured kale chips, organic raw kale salad sprinkles and the creme` del a creme` of muesli: Organic Activated Deluxe Bukinis. These products are not only healthy but taste delicious!

The chocolates are simply divine. They are hand made in Melbourne, I think using raw cacao, and cover a range of different flavours. My favourites are Sour Cherry and Acai Berry and Lacuma and Macca light. The inclusion of these super foods include a whole gamete of nutritional benefits.

The Kale chips are extremely moreish: crisp and crunchy to bite and taste a bit like salty chips but with much more depth of flavour. They are dehydrated at a low temperature to retain the enzymes, nutrients and minerals and flavoured with cashews, carrots, coriander and Himalayan salt. The salt is quite subtle and their is delicious creamy sweetness with a hint of spice. Unlike your packet of chips, they also provide a rich source of protein, copper, magnesium, vitamins K, C and A and antioxidants.

 The deluxe bukinis is the goddess of all muesli. The base is made from activated caramelised buckwheat which is sweetened with agave nectar not sugar and then mixed with a range of delicious super foods, nuts, seeds and fruits. It provides a gluten free and high alkaline alternative to regular muesli. A delicious treat for the weekend or decadent daily breakfast. YUM!

And to top it off this company has a conscious too, supporting the restoration of native ecosystems and fair trade with the Indigenous communities they source their products from.
Sigh. Could they be more perfect?

So go to your health food store and ask for loving earth. Or visit them on line.

 I am sure you will fall in love too.

http://lovingearth.net

*What does activated mean?
Activated nuts and seeds are easily digested and more nutritious than raw or roasted nuts. Raw nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors making them less easy to digest and inhibiting our ability to absorb nutrients. Activated nuts and seeds have been soaked to ensure the enzyme inhibitor found in raw seeds and nuts has been released, then dehydrated between 38-40 degC to maintain optimum nutritional value.
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Food Does Matter!

My raw food journey has so far not been about raw food but more about whole foods and healthy eating. I have been discovering some great information along the way, so as I discover things I want to pass this on to anyone that may read this blog…

 I recently watched an amazing DVD on the importance of food for our health. It is called “Food Matters”. Key experts discuss the notion of using food as your medicine i.e. helping your body by giving it the best nutrients possible. They advocate organic and fresh produce and a high raw diet.

It makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Give your body what it needs and it will function to the best it can. After watching this DVD I really assessed what I was valuing: high quality food or a hot new pair of Spanish made leather boots? And yes I WAS valuing the Spanish boots, so I bought cheaper fruit and veg from the supermarket. Now, however, my first priority is fresh and nutritious food, all of which I have found on line*.  My health is the most important as without it what do I have have? I certainly can’t enjoy my Spanish leather boots if I can’t get out and about in them.

I highly recommend anyone and everyone watch Food Matters. I have been telling everyone about it. So far 3 of my work colleagues have watched it, which is great! One of them has already made small dietary changes by no longer drinking cans of energy drinks and starting her day with a few glasses of water. In Food Matters they suggest you start the day with 1 litre of water. I have also started doing this and have noticed such a difference to my energy levels in the morning! The other key point from this DVD is the importance of raw foods and vitamins for our health. They discuss the effect of raw foods vs cooked foods and suggest incorporating at least 50% raw foods with each meal. This is a great way to incorporate the raw food diet without any drastic changes needed. I am now doing this and feel great for it.
… please please please go and watch it! You can buy Food Matters on line at:
http://www.foodmatters.tv/

* Some great on line food stores I use are:
www.lettucedeliver.com.au
They deliver organic fruit and veg to your door at a minimal price or you can pick it up for free.  They also offer a great range of groceries.

www.aussiefarmers.com.au
Some organic but predominately not. However, they are great way to support Australian produce and avoid shopping at the big supermarkets. They sell Australian fruit and veg, meat (I was told on the phone by their customer service team that their meat is all free range), bread, dairy and some speciality products. They appear to pride themselves on providing fresh produce (that hasn’t been sitting around in cold storage) and providing a way for consumers to avoid the the big name supermarkets.

http://www.urbanfoodmarket.com.au/
This is great for ethical, free range meat. They explain that they have visited all the farms their meat comes from to ensure the animal and lands are looked after and promise meat from “animals the way they were intended to be grown. Naturally…”

"Houston we have a problem"

A work colleague mentioned to me today about how she finds it so easy to eat healthily at home but once she goes out for a meal she finds it very hard to find healthy food. This colleague is as passionate about healthy food as me, so I know she is really trying to find the healthiest food possible. I think about my efforts to eat healthily, let alone raw, while out in public and it usually ends up being sushi! Which, lets face it, may be low in fat and have a little fish or veges but how much fibre and nutrients am I getting? Salads I often find to be disappointing. Even when we choose the healthy takeaway option for dinner i.e Thai, or Japanese it can still be loaded with salt/sugars/fat and/or little fibre. If you go to a nice restaurant we are no safer: as we see on Master Chef, Chefs put so much salt and butter in their cooking! Thus, while your taste buds may be singing your body may be screaming!

This fact was bought to my attention again today during our staff meeting, when the only option for our takeaway dinner was pizza or chicken burger. Unfortunately I had not been prepared enough this morning to bring my own food so, I opted for the chicken burger as I figured their would be at least some salad and protein…
And I’m paying for it now (hello bloated stomach and after taste of fat).
So I ask where is all the healthy, nutritious and delicious food hiding? Is it only to be found behind the closed doors of some people’s homes?
With all our great produce in Australia should it not be more visible in the foods we can buy?
I do know I have to be more organised if I am to continue on this raw journey but it would just be great to know there was more healthy and delicious choices for all of us out there…

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