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Raw Cacao

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Raw Cacao

All chocolate as we know it comes from cacao beans. Cacao beans are the seeds that are found in the fruit of the cacao tree. Cacao contains extraordinary health properties and it’s just one ingredient - raw and pure - no sugar, no dairy, no additives.

Do not confuse raw cacao powder with commercial cocoa powder, the latter is processed, filled with sugar and dairy, and has none of its original health benefits. Quit commercial cocoa and opt for raw, organic cacao powder.

Cacao’s benefits are many, and therefore it can be considered more than food, a potent medicine.

  • Cacao is extremely antioxidant, ranking amongst the top antioxidant foods in the world, which is known to prevent health-related conditions. This makes it a food worth adding to your longevity strategy. 
  • Cacao increases blood flow to the brain and enhances its function which can be extremely helpful for older people or in situations of poor sleep and/or fatigue. 
  • Cacao appears to be the number one source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, supports the heart, builds strong bones, increases flexibility, relaxes muscles, prevents constipation and menstrual cramps.
  • It also contains considerable amounts of iron and manganese which together keep your blood healthy.
  • Zinc is another essential trace mineral found in cacao and its critical to the proper functioning of the immune system, liver, pancreas and skin.
  • Cacao also contains an adequate amount of vitamin C. 
  • Cacao appears to be a natural appetite suppressant which can contribute to weight loss.
  • It is a powerfull mood enhancer due to elevated amounts of the essential amino acid tryptophan and the tryptamine serotonin, both of which make you feel really good.
  • Note: Contrary to popular belief, cacao is extremely poor in caffeine. 

To preserve and obtain all this wonderful properties cacao must be eaten raw. Most of its vitamins, minerals, compounds, antioxidants, proteins and fats are heat sensitive, which means they are lost when the cacao is heated (this is why commercial chocolate does not contain these qualities). 

 raw cacao powder

raw cacao powder

 raw cacao nibs

raw cacao nibs

 raw cacao butter

raw cacao butter

What to buy

Look for 100% raw, organic cacao products:

  • cacao powder - I use this product
  • cacao nibs - I like this
  • cacao butter
  • chocolate bars

* Preferably purchase 'fair trade' to be sure that your chocolate was not the product of slave labor.

Cacao products are widely available. You can find them in most health food stores, some grocery shops, whole foods, or even the internet. 

 

How to use it

Raw cacao smells and tastes strongly of chocolate but slightly bitter so I recommend adding a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten it. 

Cacao combines heavenly with cinnamon, vanilla and medicinal mushrooms (chaga or reishi).

Cacao products can generally be blended into any beverage, from coconut water, tea and smoothies to coffee. 

Add cacao powder to smoothies, raw desserts and energy balls. Use it to make a healthy nutella or a typical hot chocolate.

Cacao nibs are used as healthy chocolate chips. Add to smoothies and energy balls for extra crunch and texture. Delicious sprinkled over smoothie bowls, desserts, yogurt and granolas. You can also add them to a trail mix of your favorite nuts and dried fruits. 

Cacao butter is typically used to make your own chocolates/bars. Also possible to use it in raw treats and desserts. It can also be used to make a homemade body butter. 


Fun Fact: Because of it's incredible value and reverence cacao beans were used by Mayans and Aztecs as money instead of gold. It was considered the currency of the realm, while gold was used for decorative purposes. 


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Turmeric

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Turmeric

Growing up in a Persian household, Turmeric (as well as Saffron of course) was prevalent in our kitchen. At home we use it in most of our Persian dishes and many, if not all, of our khoresht (stews) are started with turmeric. Turmeric has remarkable benefits and is surprising that it is generally overlooked in western cuisine. 

The yellow/orange hued spice is a staple of many eastern cultures. It grows wildly in Asia and it is popular among the Asian, Indian and Persian cuisines typically used from curries to desserts.

Fresh turmeric root looks like an orange ginger, but is most commonly known and used in its powdered form. 

Turmeric has many uses, some use it medicinally, some for colour and others for flavour. It has been used as a remedy, a natural fabric dye, and it's even used in traditional ceremonies and rituals. 

Fun fact: Turmeric is used traditionally to colour the robes of Hindu monks

 

A Powerful healer

The real power of Turmeric is in its outstanding medicinal properties. Traditionally it has been used for centuries in Indian cultures as healing spice and cleanser of the body, specially in Ayurveda (the Hindu traditional medicine system). 

Turmeric is commonly known as a remedy to treat ailments ranging anything from skin conditions, stomach, lung or liver problems, colds and flus to topically healing wounds and sores. 

Curcumin is the main active compound, the responsible for the powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties that are attributed to Turmeric. 

Its potential is being recognised by science and Curcumin is currently being studied for it’s possible healing benefits in treating diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis (all inflammatory conditions).

 

Good news for vegans & vegetarians

The healthy growth and development of our brains is tightly related to the critical role of the essential omega 3 fatty acids in our diets. They reduce inflammation and the risk of degenerative conditions. 

ALA, EPA and DHA, the 3 omegas are essential because our body does not produce them on its own and we must get them from food. 

Whereas ALA can be found in plant sources, EPA & DHA can only be found in animal sources (grass fed meats and wild fish) and algae. However, certain enzymes in our body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but it’s usually a very low conversion and only small amounts get absorbed. 

Research has shown vegans and vegetarians tend to show 30 to 50 % less EPA and DHA concentrations in  their bodies. A deficiency of DHA can lead to cognitive problems ranging from anxiety, attention disorders, schizophrenia and depression to Alzheimer’s disease.

An interesting study has shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Turmeric can greatly improve the absorption of the DHA in the liver. This has shown to increase the levels of DHA in the brain. This is specially good news for vegans and vegetarians because Curcumin can improve the conversion rate of ALA to DHA. Which means that when turmeric is combined with chia, flax, hemp or walnuts (the plant sources of ALA), your body will produce and absorb more DHA from them, getting more bang for your buck! 

 

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How to buy turmeric:

A healthy pantry is incomplete without that deep yellow/orange bottle of powdered turmeric. My suggestion is to purchase a good quality organic powdered turmeric to always have at hand. This is by far the easiest way to use it. 

And if you are lucky to find fresh turmeric root in your local market or speciality store, don’t hesitate and get some! Peel it, grate it and use it just like you would use ginger.

 

how to use turmeric:

Cooked:

  • Use it in soups, stews or curries
  • Use it to sauté your onions as a starter step
  • Season meat, poultry, fish, tofu or tempeh
  • Make a marinade 

Raw:

  • Add powdered turmeric in smoothies
  • Add fresh turmeric to your juices
  • Make an interesting dessert with it
  • Make a turmeric milk
  • Try a turmeric hummus
  • Or try this turmeric tonic drink - you will love this one!

turmeric chia pudding. brain food.

makes 1

This recipe combines the plant sources of ALA, chia and walnuts with Turmeric, to increase the absorption and conversion of ALA into DHA for the healthier and happier brains of vegans and vegetarians (also suitable to omnivores :)

It is also incredibly delicious, I highly recommend you try it! 


INGREDIENTS

1/4 c water
3/4 c coconut milk
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs honey (vegans use maple syrup)
2 tbs chia seeds
3 walnuts, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Blend the coconut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, honey and water.

2. In a bowl mix the chia seeds and the liquid. Stir to incorporate and avoid clumps. Let it sit 15 minutes.

3. Top with a drizzle of honey and chopped walnuts.



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Matcha + Matcha Latte Recipe

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Matcha + Matcha Latte Recipe

First things first. What is matcha?

Matcha is powdered Japanese green tea. Essentially, it's the whole tea leaf that is hand picked in Japan and ground into a powder through a very delicate and precise process (which explains the higher price compared to other green teas). The difference is that when you drink matcha you receive all the benefits of the whole leaf, not just what seeps into the water.

Traditionally in tea ceremonies, matcha is mixed with water through a very special and ritualistic technique. It is typically prepared very precisely with an exact water temperature to maintain the integrity of the flavor and its health benefits. To make it easy for myself and avoid using the thermometer, I like to simply heat up the water and let it cool until the point where I can put a finger in and not burn. 

Since matcha is heat sensitive, I like to also eat it raw by adding it to smoothies, raw treats and chia puddings. Matcha can also be used in ice creams, pancakes, cookies, cakes and other desserts.

What makes it so great?

  • Matcha is extremely antioxidant, more so than any of the other know antioxidant food and superfood. More than any other green tea variety, cacao, goji berries and blueberries combined together!
  • 1 serving of matcha contains the same amount of caffeine as 1 coffee. However, matcha is metabolized with larger molecules which slow down the absorption of caffeine into the bloodstream, making it gentler on the body without the negative side effects of caffeine.
  • The caffeine level in 1 serving is gentle enough not to affect the body's delicate hormonal balance.
  • Matcha contains significant amounts of L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes feelings of relaxed calm.
  • The L-Theanine combined with caffeine provide sustained energy and concentration, making it an exceptional substitute for coffee.
  • The vibrant green color is due to chlorophyll which helps detoxify the body at a cellular level.

How to buy and store it.

Matcha is incredibly sensitive to light and heat, so to preserve the flavor and health properties, it is best stored in a dark/solid container preferably in the fridge.

Freshness is important too, matcha is delicate and will loose significant amount of its benefits quite quickly. So buying a small quantity more often is better.

Like in most cases, quality matters, specially when talking about health benefits and flavor. Opt for organic varieties whenever possible, and if budget allows go for the ceremonial matcha (you wont be dissapointed!)


matcha tea latte.

serves 1


So finally, I want to show you how to make an easy matcha latte. Once you get the hang of it, its quite simple and quick to prepare. Enjoy it in the morning or in the afternoon as a pick-me-up (as long as you are not caffeine-sensitive).

This recipe is really easy to make, it only requires two ingredients plus some hot water and a sweetener. You will also need a whisk to make it frothy. If you plan on making matcha tea often, then you might want to buy a cute bamboo whisk, otherwise a regular whisk will do. I hope you like it as much as I do!

INGREDIENTS

1 tsp matcha
1/4 c hot water (not tooo hot!)
3/4 c warm almond milk                                                                        
1 tbs honey (optional)

1. Add matcha, hot water and almond milk into a large cup.

*You can also try coconut milk instead of almond milk. 

2. Using a bamboo whisk, whisk briskly from side-to-side or in an M motion until frothy.

* If you don't have the bamboo whisk, prepare the tea in a larger bowl and use a normal whisk. Then transfer it to the drinking cup. You could also use a milk frother if you have one.

3. Add sweetener to your taste. I like to add 1 tbs raw honey.

*Alternatively, you can use maple syrup or stevia.

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Pantry essentials: SUPERFOODS

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Pantry essentials: SUPERFOODS

Perhaps you have heard of the incredible health benefits of Superfoods, but you are wondering why they are so special and how to incorporate them into your daily diet. In this post I will share exactly what Superfoods are and why they are so important, as well as my top 6 favourite Superfoods. These are the ones I always have in my pantry which appear in many of my recipes. They are easily available and a great place to get started! So let's get to it.

What are Superfoods?

 Superfoods are the most potent, nutrient-dense foods available in the world. They have an incredibly high nutritional value that is incomparable to normal foods such as fruits and vegetables. These super-concentrated foods are densely packed with antioxidants, enzymes, essential fatty acids, good fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and each superfood contains a dozen or more properties. 

Following is a list of the top superfoods categorised into groups. Don't get overwhelmed by this list, I share it for informational purposes. 

Algae

  • AFA blue-green algae
  • chlorella
  • spirulina
  • kelp

Bee products

  • bee pollen
  • honey
  • propolis
  • royal jelly

Cacao products

  • cacao powder
  • cacao nibs
  • cacao butter

Coconut products

  • coconut oil
  • coconut flesh - shredded or flakes
  • coconut cream

Fruits

  • goji berries
  • mulberries
  • incan berries
  • açai berries
  • camu camu powder
  • baobab powder
  • lucuma

Roots and grasses 

  • maca powder
  • wheatgrass 

Seeds

  • hempseeds
  • chia seeds

 

Why use Superfoods?

Superfoods are ancient foods that grow in some of the most remote places on earth where local inhabitants have harnessed their powers for centuries. Luckily these powerhouses are now available to us and adding them to our diet will provide maximum nutrition, meeting and exceeding ALL our nutritional requirements, from protein to essential fatty acids. 

They greatly improve overall health, dramatically increase energy levels, strengthen the immune system, improve libido and athletic performance, enhance mental clarity and focus, increase longevity and many more health benefits.  Basically, Superfoods cleanse, detox, energise and deeply nourish every organ, bone and tissue in our body. For all these reasons superfoods can delay the signs of aging, and even prevent or improve the symptoms of a variety of major modern diseases.

How to buy and include Superfoods?

Superfoods should be raw and organic so they are clean, pesticide and chemical-free, and provide higher amounts of nutrition. Since the soil and most of the foods out there are low in nutrients, its important to invest in good quality superfoods as the medicine that will fill in all the nutritional gaps and deficiencies. To get the maximum benefit from superfoods, they are best eaten raw to ensure they preserve all their properties intact, as some of them are sensitive to heat and will loose their benefits once cooked.

❤  You can add superfoods into smoothies and shakes, treats, trail mixes, desserts and dressings or simply sprinkle them on top of your granola, smoothie bowl or cereal. The best place to start is by adding 1 teaspoon of any Superfood to your smoothies, specially in the morning. This way you kick start your day with an easily digestible breakfast packed with nutrition which will enhance your natural energy, clarity and focus for the rest of the day. Superfood smoothies are the single most important change towards a healthier mind and body. 


my top 6 favourite superfoods

These are my favourite top 6 because they are easy to find and easy to include. Once you buy a pack you will have it in your pantry ready to use, and they last a good while too. You will also find them in many of my recipes so its always good to have them around if you are running out of ideas.

Chia seeds have been used by the Mayas and the Aztecs as a source of energy for centuries. These tiny seeds have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, are loaded with antioxidants, contain high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and protein. They promote bowel movements, detoxification and boost the immune system. 

❤ They can be added to smoothies, nut milks, shakes or juices. Stir them into yogurt, nut spreads, cereal or porridge. Soak them in water to for a gel-like substance as a base to a chia pudding or dessert.

Raw Cacao contains high amounts of magnesium which balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, regulates blood pressure and prevents constipation. Cacao is one of the most antioxidant foods in the planet. It also contains serotonin which regulates mood and provides a sense of happiness and well-being. Cacao is also high in sulfur, the beauty mineral which contributes to strong hair, nails and beautiful skin. Always choose raw organic 100% pure cacao. 

❤ Use cacao powder in smoothies, nut milks, treats or desserts. Sprinkle cacao nibs on cereals, smoothies, porridges and desserts.

Maca powder comes from a root that grows in Peru, a powerful adaptogen that increases the body's resistance to stress and anxiety. It is also a powerful libido enhancer, enhances fertility in men and women, balances hormones and promotes reproductive health. It boosts immune system, provides energy, increases physical strength and aids in athletic performance.

❤ Start with 1 tsp and gradually make your way up to 1 tbs. Add it to your smoothies, drinks or nut milks. Add it to your porridge, nut spread, chia pudding, treats or desserts.

Goji berries are extremely rich in antioxidants which promote longevity and contribute to cardiovascular and immune system health. They contain betaine, carotenoids, and zeaxanthin, nutrients that build muscles and protect the skin, eyes and liver. Gojis enhance strength and stamina as well as sexual energy. They are a complete protein source and contain more than 21 trace minerals such as zinc, calcium and iron.

❤ Eat them as a snack on their own, or add them to your favourite nuts. Add them to granola, porridge, smoothies, yogurt, bars and other treats.

Coconut products benefit the heart, brain and stomach, amongst others. They improve digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Coconut is a natural antibiotic that contains a fatty acid that naturally fights off bacteria, virus and fungus. The saturated fat content of coconut oil is from medium chain fatty acids that support the immune system and nervous system, boost metabolism and aid weight loss.

❤ Choose unrefined virgin coconut oil and use it for cooking, baking, in desserts, treats and smoothies, use it also as a skin moisturiser or makeup remover. Use unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut in smoothies, treats, desserts, trail mixes, or sprinkle it over porridges, cereals, or yogurt. 

Bee pollen is the most complete and nutritious food found in the planet. Its a complete source of protein, a great source of healthy fats, enzymes, B vitamins, and contains a long list of minerals. It increases strength, energy and endurance while providing quicker recovery from exercise. It also increases muscle growth and definition. It increases longevity, rejuvenates and heals hormonal imbalances.

❤ Add 1/2 tsp to your smoothie, nut milk, post work out shake, cereal or yogurt. Sprinkle over desserts or sweets.


Start by adding 1 or 2 new sexy superfoods to your diet this week and gradually expand your selection. You can add them at a pace that suits you and that allows you to experiment with each one until you find your favourite way to eat it. I promise you will quickly notice the glowing results from eating these incredible superfoods. 

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Fall Produce Guide

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Fall Produce Guide

Since nowadays most supermarkets carry every food we can think of, we have lost touch and forgotten the seasonality of produce. Because eating local and seasonal has tremendous benefits, I have created this guide to help you identify what's in season in autumn. This is a selection of popular, very nutritious fruits and vegetables that are commonly available throughout the fall.

❤ TIP: Use these ingredients in your recipes, both raw and cooked, to receive all their health-giving properties. Boil, roast, sauté, mix into salads, stir-frys, soups, sauces or dips, experiment also with juices, smoothies or desserts. Rotate them often to receive all the different properties of each food. If there are any ingredients in this list that you have never tried before, I encourage you to pick a new vegetable or fruit to experiment with each week. 

I hope this guide gets you excited to include and enjoy more of these fruits and veggies in you diet, and to get creative with them!

 

vegetables

 

Beetroots promote liver detoxification, improve circulation and purify the blood. High in antioxidants and phytochemicals that maintain a healthy heart, improve nerve functions and lower blood pressure. 

Cabbage has a balancing and grounding effect. It stimulates digestion, aids bowel regularity, and promotes liver detoxification. Contains sulfur, a beauty mineral which contributes to great skin.

Celery lowers blood pressure and reduces risk of blood clots and strokes. Beneficial for skin, nails, bones, muscles and joints. It also reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. Celery is high in fiber, inducing a feeling a fullness. 

Mushrooms contain powerful medicinal properties, some varieties more than others. Include button mushroom, crime, shiitake, chaga or reishi. They boost the immune system, and fight inflammation.

Winter Squashes come in different varieties but they all share similar benefits. These high fiber foods promote bowel regularity. They contain vitamins that keep a heart healthy, fight inflammation, and support a healthy pregnancy.

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Broccoli contains important medicinal properties. Promotes eye health, encourages great skin, repairs damaged tissue, helps strengthen the immune system, and blocks the growth of cancer cells.

Cauliflower can protect against prostate cancer, can reduce the risk of heart disease, and reduce inflammation. High in vitamin C and K, B vitamins, folate, and fiber. The orange variety is higher in vitamin A.

Jerusalem Artichoke is a root that is eaten just like a potato. Its high in fiber which helps keep a healthy digestive system. Contains good amounts of iron and potassium, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C.

Sweet Potatoes keep steady blood sugar levels. Provide high amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin C, which combats free radicals, support the immune system, and keep skin healthy and young.

Brussel Sprouts (from the cabbage family) are higher in anti-cancer compounds than other cabbages. High in vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C make it a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Carrots are high in fiber, promoting a feeling of fullness, and aiding bowel regularity. Contains carotenoids, lycopene, lutein and silicon which contribute to good eye sight, healthy skin, hair and nails.

Kale is an exceptional source of chlorophyll, calcium, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants. Promotes detoxification, hormone balance, and strong bones. Its anti-inflammatory and aids digestion.

Swiss Chard helps balance blood sugar levels. The colours in the leaves and stems are loaded with phytonutrients which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

 

fruits

 

Apples help reduce both constipation and diarrhoea. It also maintain stable blood sugar. The antioxidants in apples help preserve bone health, protect against free radical damage to the heart, bones and blood, and fights inflammation.

Pears contain water-soluble fiber which greatly reduce constipation. A combination of potassium, pectins and tannins help dissolve uric acid, beneficial for gout and arthritis. 

Figs reduce constipation due to the high fiber content, maintaining a healthy digestive system. They contain high amounts of calcium and potassium, which regulate blood pressure, the proper functioning of muscles and nerves, and strengthen bones. 

Persimmons (aka Kaki) are a great source of fiber and energy. They contain powerful antioxidants that fight free radical damage and inflammation in the body. 

Grapes are high in antioxidants which protect from free radical damage, protect against cancer, and promote healthy skin. Particularly high in resveratrol, which has antiaging properties. Can also act as a diuretic, helping to flush our excess water.

Pomegranates contain antioxidants and flavonoids that reduce inflammation, promote joint health, and can protect against breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer. The juice improves blood flow, decreases blood pressure and protects against heart disease.

 

This list is by no means exact or complete, its meat to serve as a rough guide of what is commonly available during the fall in the northern hemisphere. For information purposes I have included a small intro to some of the benefits and properties of these foods. However, instead of focusing on these properties, focus on eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, frequently. They will ALL do you good, no matter what!

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