Food & Cooking

Do I Need to Quit Sugar?

Should you quit sugar? There is evidence that sugar is detrimental to health. But are sweeteners really harming you? Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat treats without it impacting your well being. Or maybe you think sugar is okay in moderation. My 3-part quiz can help you evaluate whether you should quit sugar.

Sugar is the Perfect Lover

Americans are having an affair with sugar. And why not? It looks good, tastes good, smells good, never criticizes you, and keeps you company when you are lonely. But data from the market research firm Euromonitor – reported in the Washington Post – suggest that the love may border on lunacy. The United States consumes more caloric sweeteners (including cane and beet sugar, corn syrup, agave, maple syrup, and honey) than any other nation! This statistic does not included naturally occuring sugars, such as those in whole fruit or milk.

The Unites States leads the nations needing to quit sugar

So, if the nation is adding almost twice as much sugar to its food as France, is your personal intake as moderate as you deem? The Diabetes Council reports that sugar consumption rose more than 130 pounds per person per year in over the last century (1915 to 2011). That means per capita, we are eating more than 500 calories per day from our sweeteners – not including artificial ones!

 

Sugar consumption is up 130 pounds per capita

Part 1: Quit Sugar if Your Appetite is Unsatisfied

Do you feel the need to snack between meals? When you finish a meal, do you feel that something was missing? Are you plagued with cravings, in spite of regular meals and high caloric intake? Do you sometimes binge, or feel your appetite is out of control.

These signs tell you to quit sugar for two reasons:

  • Your blood sugars are crashing in response to an earlier spike, leaving you desperate to stoke up your metabolic fire once again. In other words, instead of a warm, lasting burn of energy, you are having a hot blast of kindling, followed by ashes.
  • Hundreds of nutrients you need to thrive – from essential fatty acids and amino acids, to minerals and antioxidants are missing, so your hunger spirals to greater and greater heights. Not only does sugar lack the essential “food” for your health, it robs you of those nutrients in order to metabolize it.

Part 2: Quit Sugar if Your Energy is Unstable

Are you exhausted, but you can’t sleep? Do your reserves run out and leave you shaky or jittery between meals? Are you drowsy after eating? Do you feel sluggish when you wake up or lethargic through the day. Does it seem that you just can’t muster the energy to get through the day, but then you’re wired at night?

Having adequate and level energy is a factor of blood sugar balance. Therefore, roller coaster energy can be a reflection of drastically fluctuating blood sugars. What you need is not more sugar! When you quit sugar, you allow your body to burn fat instead.

Part 3: Quit Sugar if Your Moods are Imbalanced

“Who are you when you’re hungry?” Adjectives such as ornery, snippy, grouchy, feisty, whiny, loopy, dramatic, and impatient are more than just a Snickers campaign! Do you feel irritable, depressed, anxious, angry, apathetic, or nervous almost every day? Yes, everyone has a bad day now and then. But are these negative moods pervasive in your life?

Being “hangry” happens when blood sugars drop too low. You have to ask yourself, “Why are they dropping?” A bowling ball rolling down the alley continues on a smooth path. But if you lob it in the air, it will stike the floor with intensity! The higher the launch, the greater the fall. As for apathy, that occurs when your cells block sugar because of a condition called insulin resistance where you are flooded with too much sugar all the time. Quit sugar to regain a more even temperament.

"Hangry" is an extreme drop in blood sugars

Bonus Question: Do You Struggle With Weight?

Often, weight is a sign of inflammation in the body. Sugar is inflammatory! So if you quit sugar, not only will you immediately remove excess calories from your diet, you will also take away some of the gasoline you’ve been pouring on the “match.” In my experience, clients can often easily drop 10 to 20 pounds just by removing all sweeteners from their diet.

Do you need help overcoming your love affair with sugar? I can help!

Eggs for a sugar-free Easter

Sugar-Free Easter

Create a sugar-free Easter without depriving yourself of treats! Use only whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods, and celebrate in health! These sugar-free Easter treats do not use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, such as honey, agave, and maple syrup. Eating strong does not mean you have to give up the joys and traditions of special days.

Sugar-Free Cookies

Sugar-free Easter macaroons

Use dried fruit to transform the ordinary cookie into something spectacularly health-supporting.

Apricot Macaroons: First, blend 1/4 cup dried apricots with 1/2 cup thick coconut milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Then, in a separate bowl, mix 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut with 2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, gluten-free, or almond) and a pinch of salt. Finally, add the blended apricot mixture to the bowl with the coconut shreds. After mixing well, scoop by tablespoon onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Not-Sugar Cookies: To begin, puree 1/2 cup of golden raisins with 1 egg. Next, mix the puree into 1 cup of fresh-ground nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut, etc.) along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Flavor with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Roll into balls and set onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until set and lightly browned.

Easter Candies

Certainly, no American celebration exists without chocolate! It’s incredibly easy to make these truffles. You can even roll them into an egg shape for your sugar-free Easter festivities.

Sugar-free Easter truffles

Before you add any other ingredients, warm 1/2 cup of coconut milk or heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam. While you are waiting, chop three 3-ounce chocolate bars (70-85% cacao) into 1/2-inch squares. When the milk/cream is warm enough, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate pieces. Keep stirring until the chocolate is all melted. Now, add a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of flavoring: vanilla, raspberry extract, or mint extract. Chill until firm – a few hours – then roll into desired shapes. Optional: roll in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or unsweetened coconut flakes.

Sugar-free Easter Cake

Pear and Parsnip Cake

Similar to a banana bread, this Pear & Parsnip cake is a beautiful finale to your sugar-free Easter feast.

Start by peeling and grating 1 parsnip. Set aside. Warm 1/2 cup coconut oil, palm shortening or pastured lard until softened. Blend your softened fat with 6 cooked pear halves. Following that step, combine 1 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, glulten free, or almond) in a bowl with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Finally, mix the grated parsnip and the pear mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Spread in a parchment-lined loaf pan and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 1 hour. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Pretty Spring Ice Creams

Raspberry Sorbet

photo credit: Mordi Photographie

Serve your sugar-free Easter cake with a scoop of coconut ice cream! Or skip the cake, and serve a colorful, spring raspberry sorbet. Unlike the coconut ice cream, it is pleasingly light.

Coconut Ice Cream:

Blend 2 cans of chilled full-fat coconut milk with 1 cup medjool dates until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla or maple flavoring and pour into pre-chilled ice cream freezer bowl. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Raspberry Sorbet:

Blend 2 cups frozen raspberries with 2 ripe avocadoes until smooth. If desired, add 2 Tablespoons of lime juice and 2 Tablespoons melted honey. Pour into pre-chilled ice cream freezer bowl. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Brownie Bites Anyone?

Sugar-free Brownies

Who says you need jelly beans for Easter? Why not put little brownie balls into your Sugar-free Easter basket instead? Without a doubt, this is the fastest brownie recipe I have every made.

First, measure 1 cup fresh-ground peanut butter (no additives) into a bowl. Then blend 3 bananas with 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lastly, beat banana mixture into peanut butter. Spread into a sprayed 9″ x 9″ baking dish and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Alternately, you can scoop the batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes (You may need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour to make the batter thick enough for this.)

Having Trouble Making Sugar-Free a Habit?

Perhaps you want a healthier lifestyle but struggle to control those cravings. If you think your will power is too weak, let me empower you with tools to transform your health. Often, I find that cravings are more physiological than psychological.

Last-minute molasses cookies

Last-Minute Treats

Need some last-minute treats to give to a friend or serve with your holiday dinner that are not sugar-laden? Try one of these simple recipes made from natural foods. You will only need 10 minutes in prep time for each one. Nobody will know that both recipes are dairy-free, gluten-free, and low in natural sugar. The cookies have an egg-free alternative.

Creamy Cashew Fudge

last-minute fudge

With only 6 ingredients, this recipe is simple. You won’t use cups and cups of sugar – just a few ounces of pure maple syrup. But best of all, you don’t need to cook it on the stove like a traditional fudge. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in less than a minute, and stir it into cashew butter.

Palm shortening makes it set. This is not the same thing as traditional shortening, which is full of trans fats. Rather, it is palm oil with some of the unsaturated oils removed to make it firm yet creamy at room temperature. Palm oil, the second most-common cooking oil in the world, comes from tropical palm trees.

These luxurious fudge squares keep best in the refrigerator; they tend to be soft if left out.

Soft Molasses Cookies

last-minute molasses cookies

You’ll never guess what sweetens these chewy gems. The secret is golden raisins! A little pumpkin pie spice turns them into a holiday ginger cookie that can be rolled and cut into shapes if you’re not in a hurry. Although for a last-minute treat, you can drop them onto your cookie sheet with a spoon. Then flatten them slightly, and they’ll come out in pretty little circles.

For egg-free cooking, I find it works well to blend some water, avocado oil, and baking powder with the raisins. The cookies hold together just as well, and the liquid helps puree the raisins, just as the eggs would.

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Last Minute Treats

Natural, gluten-free, dairy-free fudge and cookies that will delight your guests as if you had spent hours in the kitchen!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Refrigeration Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cacao, chocolate, maple syrup, molasses, nut butter, raisins
Servings: 16
Cost: $5-10

Ingredients

For the Creamy Cashew Fudge

  • 6-10 oz. 70% cacao bar (depending on how dark you like it)
  • 1/2 cup palm shortening
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups cashew butter (no additives)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the Soft Molasses Cookies

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 eggs ( or use 1/4 c. water, 2 tsp. avocado oil, 1 Tbsp. baking powder)
  • 2 cups almond butter (no additives)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

For the Fudge

  • Break the cacao bars into 1" pieces. Add them to the palm shortening in a microwave-safe container. Microwave in 20-second bursts, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted, but not hot.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat together the cashew butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Pour in the melted shortening and cacao bars. Beat again until smooth.
  • Spray a 9X9 pan with cooking spray. Spread the fudge in the pan with a rubber spatula. Chill until set. Cut into 1/2" squares.

For the Cookies

  • In a high-speed blender, puree the raisins with the egg or egg substitute until no pieces remain.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the almond butter, molasses, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add the raisin puree and mix until completely incorporated.
  • If cutting shapes, chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling to 1/4" thick. Use a spatula after cutting to lift onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
    Otherwise, drop by tablespoon onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly.
  • Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until browned and set. Cool slightly. Remove to cooling racks.
brands of fish sauce

Easy Basil Stir-Fry

Basil Stir-fry is easy, quick, and nutritious. For a dinner that comes together in a wink, try this popular Thai street food, also known as Pad Kaprow. Make it with chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp, and choose vegetables that fit your tastes.

The Benefits of This Easy Stir-Fry

  • Nutritional balance: In a single dish, you’ll get an appropriate balance not only of fats, carbs, and proteins, but also a healthy serving of phytonutrients from the herbs and vegetables. Additionally, this dish provides a nice harmony of the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and umami.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Although basil has many beneficial properties, one of its top healthy traits is that it may help lower inflammation through its oils, eugenol, citronellol and linalool. Including plenty of vegetables to this dish enhances the anti-inflammatory benefit of the meal.
  • Immune boosting: If you include mushrooms in your easy stir-fry, especially shiitakes, you can count on their immune-enhancing characteristics.

Which Basil to Use

Thai basil, also known as holy basil or tulsi

Although the spicier Thai Holy Basil (Tulsi) suits this recipe best, feel free to use sweet Italian Basil instead if you cannot obtain the former. While sweet basil will give a different flavor profile, it will still be delicious. Adding perhaps a small amount of Thai basil to a bunch of sweet basil will provide the welcome licorice-like taste.

Thai basil has a more distinct flavor than Italian basil, similar to licorice or anise. It’s more savory and is a defining characteristic in Southeast Asian recipes. Because its sturdy leaves hold up well to longer cooking times, it’s the perfect punch for stewed dishes, soups, and stir-fries. Use it to spice up a dish with a heavy scent that has slight citrus notes.

A Note About Ingredients

  • Protein: Ground meats work best. If you’re not using a ground beef or sausage, cut meat into bite-size chunks. I personally enjoy sausage, but even vegan tempeh will work!
  • Soy Sauce: Traditional pad kaprow recipes use oyster sauce, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. To simplify the recipe and minimize ingredients, I have opted to stick with soy sauce only, spiked with a little molasses to give the characteristic thick sweetness of dark soy sauce.
  • Fish Sauce: Don’t scrimp here. This ingredient is important not only for saltiness, but for umami depth. I promise it tastes a hundred times better than it smells! I recommend traditionally-fermented Golden Boy or Red Boat fish sauce. After the you cook this easy stir-fry, you can add more if needed.
  • Palm Sugar: Extracted from the sap of various palm trees, including the sugar palm and the date palm, palm sap is boiled into a syrup, then crystallized. Coconut sugar is just one type of palm sugar. Palm sugar makes a good alternative to white sugar because it has been minimally processed and still retains many minerals, a few phytonutrients and some antioxidant properties. It has a lower glycemic index than white sugar.
  • Mushrooms: For flavor and immune-enhancement, shiitakes are your best bet, but oyster mushrooms and criminis are also good.
  • Beans or Pea pods: Be sure to add plenty to green to your easy stir-fry. They add aesthetics and polyphenols that will feed your beneficial gut microbiome. Polyphenols are antioxidants that help control inflammation. They are a major fuel source for your gut bugs.
  • Red and yellow bell peppers: These sweet peppers balance the savory taste of the mushrooms, add antioxidants to help with inflammation, and create a pleasing rainbow on your plate.
  • Water Chestnuts: Add these if you like a little crunch to offset the texture of the meat and rice.
  • Egg: This ingredient is optional, but for a truly traditional ethnic dish, fry in oil until crispy on the edges and serve on top of your stir-fry.

Easy Basil Stir-fry

This easy basil stir-fry infuses authentic Thai flavors into a dish that’s legendary over rice for a fast dinner you will crave.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: Basil, Beef, Chicken, Pork, Stir-fry
Servings: 4
Cost: $8

Equipment

  • Wok or skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp
  • 2 red chilies, chopped (more or less for desired heat)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh vegetables (see ingredient notes, above)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, crushed
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 4 eggs, fried (optional)

Instructions

  • Melt the coconut oil in your wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the protein, garlic, and chilies. Stir-fry until protein changes color and is cooked through.
  • Mix in the chopped vegetables and continue stir-frying until they are fork-tender.
  • Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, molasses, water and palm sugar. Stir and cook until the palm sugar dissolves.
  • Mix in the basil leaves and cook just until fragrant and wilted.
  • Serve over warm rice. Top with fried egg, if desired.

 

Gluten-free cookie

No Gluten? No Problem!

No gluten in your diet? No problem! There are plenty of whole foods to alleviate your cravings and satisfy your hunger!

Who Needs to Say No to Gluten?

Perhaps you have no problem because you have not got Celiac Disease? Or don’t have any severe GI symptoms? Even though you may feel great in your tummy, you may have symptoms elsewhere. This particular sensitivity is an immune response. Therefore, it can show up anywhere in your body. Simply put, when you react to gluten, your body generates inflammation that can affect your brain, joints, muscles, or heart.

You might have  gluten sensitivity if you suffer from arthritis, ADD, eczema, or frequent headaches. Further, brain fog is common with gluten sensitivity. Do you have trouble focusing or remembering? (“I feel like I’m thinking under a heavy, wet blanket.”) Do you crave breads, pastas, and other foods made with all-purpose flour? For sure, partially-digested gluten, in the form of gluteomorphins, fits opiate receptors in your brain, and gives you a “high” when you eat it.

People who may benefit from gluten elimination include those with:

  • Autoimmunity. Gluten can promote “leaky gut”, which is a precursor to autoimmunity. (See this interview with Alessio Fasano)
  • Type 2 diabetes. You need to avoid the high-glycemic load of white flour if you have insulin resistance.
  • Overt obesity. The high-glycemic load of flour products contributes to increased body fat
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Your immune response to gluten may be causing gut inflammation.
  • Chronic depression. There is increasing evidence that gluten might enact changes in your brain chemistry that promote depression.

Elimination is No Problem

While there are many gluten-free products on the market, switching from one processed food to another is not necessarily a good idea. Your optimal health depends on vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant-based) that come from nutrient-dense foods. The more colors you can get into your diet, the more you will calm your inflammation. So, using vegetables, legumes, and seeds to substitute for products made with wheat, rye, or barley is a sure win!

Sweet Potato Toast

Here’s a fuss-free solution if you like a slice a bread for breakfast. Roast a sweet potato before bedtime and refrigerate overnight. Then, in the morning, you can whack off a slice and pop it into the toaster. It will be amazing with a little mashed avocado or nut butter smeared on it when it’s brown and warm.

Plantain Tortillas

Boil equal amounts of peeled, cut ripe plantain with peeled, cut yucca root until fork-tender. Drain and chill to set the starches. Then process in a high-powered blender with a little salt and a pat of butter of coconut oil until it forms a dough. Roll out and cook on a medium-hot griddle for flavor and pliability that tops any commercial product! (Note: if your dough is sticky, you can add a little cassava flour, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or cornstarch.)

Plantain Waffles

Add an egg or two, enough milk to make a batter, and a teaspoon or two of baking powder to the dough above. Cook on a sprayed, hot waffle iron.

plantain waffle

More Whole Food Ideas

Seed Crackers

Although you can make your own crackers, here’s one case where you can buy it in a box and still get a whole-food product. I prefer Mary’s Gone Crackers.

Yam Pita or Pizza Crust

Microwave or bake a large yam until very soft. While it is still warm, slip the peel off with a paring knife and mash the yam in a bowl. Next, add cassava flour until you get a soft dough that will form a ball – about half the amount of the yam. On parchment paper, press the dough into one large or several smaller circles, about 1/2″ thick. Invert over a 375 degree griddle or onto a non-stick baking pan placed in a 375-degree oven. Cook until brown on one side, flip, and cook for equal time on the other side.

Nut Butter Cookies

Combine one cup nut butter (cashew or almond) with a half cup honey and 1 egg. Add a teaspoon each of vanilla and salt. If you prefer, substitute molasses for half the honey and use pumpkin pie spice in place of the vanilla. If the dough is sticky, add a little almond flour. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Lentil Crepes

First, soak one cup red lentils in double the amount of water until the water is mostly absorbed (2-3 hours). Second, blend lentil mixture with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of coconut oil until smooth like a thin pancake batter. Finally, pour by half cups into a hot, non-stick, or buttered skillet, forming a thin layer. Cook on one side until bubbly, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until browned on the second side.

Lentil crepe

 

processed American comfort foods

Craving Comfort Food

Is Coronavirus making you crave comfort food? Having the munchies doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. Real food can be more comforting than factory imitations! Read on to see our tips for making your comfort meals healthier. Then check out our round-up of 10 amazing snacks to soothe the munchies.

Tips for Making Comfort Food Healthier

  • Serve a large side dish, rather than denying yourself of that sweetened, processed meal, heavy in refined carbohydrates.  Then, the food you crave becomes almost an afterthought. For instance, offer a large salad with Cookie and Kate’s Asian Carrot-Ginger Dressing next to a small portion of pad thai.
  • Tuck vegetables in wherever you can. Child-feeding specialist Melanie Potock shows you how in this macaroni and cheese that contains parsnips and carrots. Healthy Little Foodies demonstrates how to make marinara sauce with 6 different vegetables.
  • Make substitutions. Use cauliflower for part of the cheese in this epic sauce from The Kitchn. (It makes a great dipping sauce for chicken tenders.) Try pumpkin puree to replace some of the flour and oil in pancakes or muffins. Eggplant subs well for noodles in this lasagne from Well Plated.
  • Be creative. You can make the comfort food you crave in unusual ways. Bake pizza ingredients inside of a hollowed out spaghetti squash, or make sandwiches out of toasted sweet potato slices, fried green tomatoes, halved cucumbers, or grilled portabello mushrooms.

Comforting Snacks to Crave

Here are our top 10 healthy ideas from around the web for your next snack attack. When you are craving American junk food, trust these alternatives to satisfy you.

avocado chips

Chips: You can make nearly any vegetable into a chip. Root vegetables, such as turnips, beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips are best. But even eggplant, zucchini, green beans, and radishes can be sliced thin and crisped in a hot oven with a coating of cooking fat. These novel avocado chips, are worth their salt, though!

hummus

Dips: Marinara and hummus are good whole food substitutes for store-bought dips that are full of artificial ingredients.

Fruity Frosty is a Big Fat Treat

photo credit: Mordi Photographie

Ice Cream or Popsicles: Sometimes you just want cool and creamy. With these “big fat treats,” you don’t have to worry about too much sugar.

apple "doughnuts"

Doughnuts: If you’re sight-triggered, these darling “iced” apple rings look enough like a doughnut to tickle your fancy.

cold-infused tea

Soft Drinks: If it’s the flavor you’re after, cold-infuse an herbal tea into your water. If you want fizz, try sparkling water or a probiotic drink, such as kombucha.

chocolate cake

Cake: Made with bananas, applesauce, and pumpkin – but no sugar – this chocolate cake… er, uh, takes the cake!

Whole Food Mother's Day Cookies

Photo Credit: Kristi Jo, (208)242-6148

Cookies: These no-flour, no-sugar cookies are made simply from whole foods that are quick and easy to combine.

watermelon fries

Fries: Crispy and salty is really what you’re after. But it doesn’t have to be deep-fried in oxidized oil. How about these watermelon fries for comfort food?

dark chocolate

Candy Bars: You’ll need canned coconut milk, pecans, pure maple syrup, and a 70% cacao bar for this one! Simmer 3 parts coconut milk with 1 part maple syrup until thick and caramel-like. Cool slightly. Mix in plenty of nuts. Spoon into mini-muffin cups and refrigerate. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate bar. Dips the caramel nut “turtles” in melted chocolate and return to the refrigerator.

banana s'mores

 

S’mores: As long as there’s chocolate, who really needs marshmallows? These Smore’s Banana Bites have just enough sweetness to comfort your crave! (You can leave out the marshmallow fluff.)

 

Heart Healthy Papaya Pudding

Heart Health Every Month

Heart health is vital all year long, not just during American Heart Health Month. Here are some tips to keep your cardiovascular system strong for life!

Magnify Antioxidant Power

Functional nutrition concerns itself, not with disease, but with the inflammation & imbalances that incite disease. To speak succinctly, chronic inflammation occurs in your body when free radicals outnumber antioxidants.

Heart Health is threatened by an imbalance of free radicals

Free radicals are very reactive particles that burn through most things they touch in a process called oxidation. When they damage tissues of the cardiovascular system, they threaten your heart health.

In the nutrition world, processed vegetable oils, refined sugars, and alcohol are top contributors to free radicals. Dietary sources of antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), alpha lipoic acid, and bioflavanoids – the pigments that give plant foods their rich colors.

fruits and vegetables in a balance with free radicals

In plain English, that means eat lots of brightly-colored produce. A study of 3100 different edible substances discovered that herbs and spices were among the highest sources of antioxidants.  Spices such as turmeric, cumin, and ginger; and herbs, such as cilantro, and peppermint are especially powerful.  Here’s a tip: add leafy herbs to your smoothie, and have a shaker bottle of warm spices, such as these, near the stove to sprinkle on your meats, soups, and stir-fries.

Cilantro Smoothie

cilantro smoothie

Blend together: 6 mandarin oranges, 6 oz. pineapple juice concentrate, 1 can full fat coconut milk, 1 bunch cilantro, and 1 cup ice.

Tame Inflammation

Most Americans eat too many pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids. Vegetable oils made from corn, cottonseed, canola, soy, and safflower are high in Omega 6’s. Omega 3 fatty acids help re-establish balance and support heart health by managing inflammation, reducing triglycerides, and slowing plaque build-up.

However, since your body can’t make them, you have to get them from food. Fish is the best source. But if you don’t like fish, then walnuts, chia, and flax are your next best sources. To ease more fish into your diet, you can make fish patties.

Easy Fish Cakes

Fish Patty

Mix together equal parts cooked white fish and mashed potatoes. Add Old Bay Seasoning to taste. Form patties and toast on a hot griddle. Serve with lemon and dill.

Support Methylation For Heart Health

Methylation is  one of the most essential processes in the body. It detoxifies homocysteine, an amino acid that can threaten heart health by increasing inflammation and damaging blood vessels. You need folate and vitamin B-12 for methylation.

The best sources of these important B vitamins are dark leafy greens and liver! Many people detest liver, so your tip to use this nutrient powerhouse is to hide it from yourself. Mix 1 part ground liver into 4 parts liberally-seasoned taco meat.

tacos with ground beef and liver

To eat more leafy greens, try these recipes for wilted or cooked greens from traditional cultures.

Maximize Magnesium

This essential mineral is especially important to control blood pressure and prevent arrhythmias. One study suggests that up to 75% of Americans are not meeting the recommended daily allowance. Since magnesium insufficiency often manifests as muscle weakness, it is critical to get enough magnesium for your most active muscle – your heart.

Super Magnesium Trail Mix

heart healthy trail mix of cashews, almonds, pumpkins seeds and cacao nibs

Toss together raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, raw cashews, and extra dark chocolate chips. If desired, add dried cherries or dried cranberries.

Prevent Plaque Formation

According to this study, Vitamin K-2 can prevent both hardening of the arteries and plaque build-up in the arteries. You would think that if a specific vitamin had actually been shown in clinical study to be associated with a 50% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk (yes, half!) that it would be a major news headliner, right? Unfortunately,Vitamin K2 is prevalent mostly in animal foods that many people shy away from because of nutritional myths. These foods include grass-fed butter, cheeses, fatty red meats (e.g. ribeye steak), liver, and egg yolks. The food containing the highest amount of vitamin K2 is a highly fermented soy food called natto, which very few people can tolerate due to its strong odor and flavor.

However, increasing your vitamin K-2 intake might be easier than you think. Instead of grabbing chocolate when you hit that energy “coma” in the afternoon, snack on gouda cheese and whole grain crackers instead.

Since egg yolks are also high in this critical nutrient, you can maximize your intake with this beautiful Brazilian dessert, known to Americans as Papaya Pudding.

Creme de Papaya

A light, satisfying, low-sugar version of a Brazilian classic
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Standing time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Servings: 4
Cost: $5

Equipment

  • Blender

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. very ripe papaya chunks
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tsp. grated ginger root (grates best when frozen)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 egg yolks

Instructions

  • Puree the papaya, banana, lime juice, honey, coconut milk, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in the blender.
  • Transfer mixture to a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and heat, stirring frequently, until steamy.
  • Remove from heat. Add egg yolks to the blender jar, and turn the motor on low.
  • While the blender is running, slowly pour the papaya puree into the blender jar. Process until creamy.
  • Pour into dessert dishes and let stand 10 minutes before serving or refrigerating.

 

 

Antioxidant Strawberries are Valentines that love you

Valentines That Love YOU

Satisfy your sweet-loving heart – and your sweetheart – with Valentines that love you back! These treats bring nutrients to your heart, muscles, skin and lungs, even your very cells. Because you create them from all-natural ingredients, you get no inflammatory lash-back from refined sugars, artificial colors & flavors, and processed oils. No recipe necessary! Just mix and share. After all, real food = romance!

Strawberry Hearts

Dip fresh strawberries in melted dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), then sprinkle with chopped nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes. Want to send your Valentine some extra love? Instead of dipping the strawberries, draw on them, like Brandi at The Vegan 8, using an icing bag filled with melted chocolate.

White plate of strawberries with chocolate words

 

Valentine Love Pudding

You know the chia pudding that was popular a couple of years back? Why not adapt it for February 14th? Go ahead and mix your full-fat can of coconut milk with a couple of tablespoons of chia, but just before you add a pinch of salt and set it in the fridge to set up, stir in just enough juice concentrate to sweeten it. Try pomegranate, cherry, or cranberry for a beautiful pink color. Then when you are ready to serve it, top it with nuts and fruit, such as goji berries, pitaya, raspberries or cherries.

boysenberry pudding makes a delightful valentine

 

Cupid Chocolates

With just 3 ingredients, you can spread the love! Start with an all-natural peanut-butter, such as Adam’s, and mix in just enough pure maple syrup for a semi-sweet taste. Form into small balls (or even hearts if you like), and chill while you melt some dark chocolate (70% cacao or more). Dip the balls in the melted chocolate and set them in paper candy cups.  Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle with red sugar crystals.

With 3 ingredients, PB chocolates share the Valentine love

A Valentine Mousse to Love

What could be more romantic than a creamy pink mousse, shared by candlelight? Plus, it whips up so quickly, you can spend the extra time getting ready for the big night. Simply combine equal parts heavy cream and softened cream cheese. Add some pureed raspberries to taste and spoon into dessert cups. Chill. Just before serving, top with fresh raspberries and a dolop of whipped cream.

raspberry mousse that loves YOU

Heart’s Delight

Love chocolate and fruit together? Here’s a filled valentine that loves you because there’s no added sugar. You need freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries and coconut butter, plus some melted dark chocolate (70% cacao or more). Start by melting the coconut butter in a double boiler. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, powder the berries by pulsing the motor. Add the powder to the coconut butter at a ratio of about 4 parts coconut butter to 1 part berry powder. Pour into candy molds and chill to set. When candies are firm, dip in melted chocolate and leave in a cool place to set.

These valentine chocolates have a surprise raspberry filling

Lover’s Pie

Give your Valentine some love with a light fresh fruit pie. Blend any kind of nuts until they release their oil and begin to stick together. Press them firmly into the bottom of a pie pan. Next, empty about of pound of fresh or frozen berries into a saucepan along with a half of a cup of water. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the berries break down. Sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of gelatin, and stir until the gelatin dissolves. Pour over the nut crust and refrigerate until set. Top with more berries.

berries and gelatin make a fruit pie your Valentine will love

What you eat matters because YOU matter! If you want to live and give your best, you must eat your best! To be someone’s Sweetheart, cherish your own sweet heart by eating only ingredients that love your body back. If you’re confused about the connection between your diet and your symptoms, check out what Functional Nutrition can do for you.

Immunity Soup made with lentils

Immunity Soup

Immunity Soup is engineered to deliver vital nutrients while providing a comforting winter meal. The immune system is a nutrient HOG! In order to keep it functioning well, we have to feed it a constant stream of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Benefits of Immunity Soup

We start with bone broth, because it’s rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and iron. To that, we add sautéed onion, which has sulphur compounds to help you detoxify. The onion is sautéed in coconut oil with some minced garlic, thyme leaves, and cumin seeds. These all have antimicrobial properties.

We know that zinc is crucial for immunity, so we use brown lentils as an abundant source of that mineral. Then for Vitamins A & C, which provide a shot of antioxidants, we chop some veggies. Rich colors alert us to the presence of antioxidants. We use tomatoes, parsley, celery, carrot, kale, cabbage, and chilies – green for mild, red for spicy.

To get an anti-inflammatory benefit, we add grated ginger root & grated turmeric root (or turmeric powder).To give the immune system a boost, we put in some chopped mushrooms and a couple of bay leaves. A final touch is to add some red wine vinegar, which supports your healthy gut microbiome in fending off pathogens.

Recipe

1 onion, chopped

2 Tb. coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme

4 c. bone broth

1 c. brown lentils

1 lb. ground grass-fed lamb, beef, or sausage, browned (optional)

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, sliced

1 bunch kale, chopped

4 c. cabbage, chopped

1/4 c. tomato paste or 4 tomatoes, cubed

1 Tb. dried parsley or 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 chilies according to preference

1″ each of turmeric root and ginger root, grated (or 1/2 tsp. powder)

8 mushrooms, chopped

2 bay leaves

3 Tb. red wine vinegar

1 Tb. salt

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot, crock pot, or Instant Pot. Pressure for 20 minutes, or simmer for 30 minutes, or slow cook for 4 hours.

 

 

Breakfast soup of broth, chicken, and vegetables

Breakfast Soups

What if, instead of cereal, you had soup for breakfast? It might sound odd in America, but all over the world, healthy cultures feast on breakfast soup several times per week.

Historical Bias for Breakfast Soup

There’s an old saying: “Breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper.”  In blue zones – 5 places around the world where people consistently live over 100 years old – breakfast looks more like dinner. In most cases, the first meal of the day consists of protein, plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, oils), and beans or vegetables.

Many Japanese eat Sumo Stew first thing in the morning is normal. Also, Nigerians often enjoy Egg Stew, Chinese slurp Congee (rice porridge with egg and meat), and Columbians have their Changua (milk soup with poached eggs). From Mohinga (fish & noodle soup) in Burma to Lablabi (chickpea soup) in Tunisia, people around the globe have been eating soup for breakfast forever. And let’s not forget Vietnamese Pho, or Indian Ginger Rasam (lentil soup).

Yet, according to a survey that Kellogg’s conducted, only 34% of adult Americans eat breakfast at all.

Advantages of Soup for Breakfast

Here’s how soup beats cereal for your morning meal:

First, it stabilizes your blood sugars. Steaming broths rich in amino acids, and vegetables in healthy fats help insure you don’t have an insulin spike today. Add to that protein-rich meats and legumes, and you have a true winner.

Second, those who eat a hearty meal in the morning are more likely to lose weight. One study followed two groups of people who ate the same number of calories, but distributed them differently throughout the day. This first group ate more calories at breakfast, while the second group ate more calories at dinner. The group that consumed the larger breakfast lost 2.5 times more weight than the the group that ate a larger dinner group. Additionally, the first group lost four more inches around the waist. ”What we have seen is that people on diets with the same number of calories who front-load calories to the earlier part of the day fare better in terms of subjective and objective measures of satiety,” researchers said.

Further, those who eat like a king at breakfast are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI). “Studies have found that although people who skip breakfast eat slightly fewer calories during the day, they tend to have higher body mass index, or BMI,” says Christy C. Tangney, PhD, a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center and an expert on the effects of diet and nutrition on heart health.

Finally, an ample breakfast encourages a vigorous metabolism. When you eat well in the morning, you’re telling your body that there are plenty of calories available for the day. When you skimp on breakfast, the message you send your body is that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.

Recipes

Not sure you want to eat international fare? Here are some American recipes that will give you the same benefits that cultures around the world enjoy.

Butternut Soup

This recipe comes from Mickey Trescott at AutoimmuneWellness.com.

  • 1 tablespoon solid cooking fat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 lbs. whole chicken
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 cups baby spinach
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  1. Place the solid cooking fat in the bottom of your Instant Pot and select the “saute” function. When the fat has melted and the pot is hot, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent and lightly browned, about six minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another 30 seconds, until aromatic.
  2. Put the water into the pot and turn off the heat. Add the chicken, squash, and sea salt to the pot. Lock the lid, and set your machine to pressure cook on the manual “high” setting for 16 minutes.
  3. When the machine indicates the dish is finished cooking, immediately place a towel over the steam valve, carefully opening with the use of a wooden spoon (careful — you can burn yourself easily here!) to quick-release the pressure. Once the steam is released, remove the lid, and allow to cool.
  4. Once the dish has cooled enough, remove the whole chicken from the pot, take off the meat, and place back in the pot with the spinach and lemon juice. Place back into the Instant Pot container to heat to temperature, and enjoy!
  5. If you are going to be portioning this soup into jars for storage in the freezer, allow it to cool completely and spend 24 hours in the refrigerator before doing so — the soup will have a better flavor when you reheat it!

Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cups bone broth
  • 1 lb. ground sausage, browned
  • 2 cups diced raw sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in coconut oil until translucent.
  2. Put all ingredients except kale in a crock pot or soup pot and simmer until sweet potato is tender (20 minutes on stovetop, 2-3 hours in a crock pot).
  3. Add the kale and cook 2-3 minutes more, just until kale is wilted.