Pomegranate Flavour Fizzy Drink

This post is an update on a previous post entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  You can check that out under Blog / Recipes.  Since then I have tried new flavours for this homemade drink.  I often use fresh pomegranate in my breakfast bowl but I came to try pomegranate as a fizzy drink flavour after my sister was clearing her kitchen of fresh produce to travel abroad and gave me a spare one.  In that first batch I made I also added some fresh lime juice (as I just happen to have a left over lime).  It turned out to be a delicious flavour combination.  I’ve since made a little video of how to use a pomegranate to make probiotic fizzy drinks.  [Click YouTube Icon below – it is 5 mins 31 seconds long]

Next time around I might add ‘star anise’ to the fermenting bottle of pomegranate to see how that flavour combination works.  I have used star anise in Kombucha in the past.  I really like the flavour it adds to the drink.  Finding flavour combinations that appeal to you is a matter of experimenting, but no matter what the outcome, the drink remains a really healthy option!

I just need to NOTE here that every time you use a pomegranate the flavour outcome will depend on the quality and ripeness of the fruit.  If you open a pomegranate and the seeds are a dark red and the juice rushes out as you cut into the fruit, this is likely to ultimately produce a richer, sweeter flavoured drink.  Unfortunately, when buying a pomegranate it can be pot luck as to whether it is ideal for juicing.  I have often purchased pomegranate that had quite dry and opaque looking seeds which are ok for sprinkling on your breakfast bowl or salad, but I wouldn’t recommend it for juicing.  It’s hard to tell before you open the fruit what you are going to find inside!

If you have watched the video I hope you enjoyed it and realize I am not a professional video maker by far.  I just produced it on my phone with an app called ‘Film Maker’ as a handy visual to follow.  If you are like me, I tend to follow a visual better than reading down through written text.  However, as previously stated, you will find the written instructions on how to make the ‘ginger bug’ starter and fizzy drink in my previous blog entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

How to make Sauerkraut

I have to admit that even since childhood I have NOT been a fan of cooked cabbage or any cooked cruciferous vegetables for that matter.  In retrospect, when I consider how it was offered ‘plain cooked, perhaps even overcooked, smelly veg’ 😦 , I’m not surprised it didn’t appeal.  ‘No offence mother’!!  I could not be swayed, and I mean, AT ALL!!

Turns out cruciferous vegetables (cabbage in all its forms, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radishes etc.) are one of the most nutritionally valuable and health beneficial foods you can consume.  The phytonutrients (phyto = plant) in crucifers protect our health by working as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol.  These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds.

In any case, I won’t be too hard on myself for having rejected crucifers for so long, since boiling drastically reduces the nutritional benefits which is lost through heat and into the water that went down the plug hole 😊.  In later years however, I happily consume various forms of raw cabbage e.g. coleslaw and other cruciferous containing salad dishes and of course, sauerkraut.   Some lightly steamed Broccoli drenched in butter with a sprinkle of pepper is also very pleasing to my taste buds, whereas to eat it overcooked is still a chore ☹  Here it is worth noting for anyone with Thyroid issues, it is best to cook crucifers even a little to deactivate the goitrogens contained in these vegetables.

You can read more about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables here.

Finally, with regard to the benefit of cruciferous vegetable in general, most nutritional therapists will be familiar with these benefits in relation to hormonal balance for both male and female hormones.  An increase in consumption of cruciferous vegetables is usually recommended and/or supplementation with diindolylmethane or DIM for short.

Classic Sauerkraut Recipe
(Dry salting method)     [To make one – 2 Litre Jar]
  • Head of Red or White Cabbage or mix
  • Sea Salt (800g of cabbage to 1 tablespoon of salt)
  • Juniper berries (1 ½ tblsp)
  • Caraway seeds (1 tblsp)
Method:
  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the core, then shred the cabbage. You can use a sharp kitchen knife or the shredder blade on a food processor.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the salt. Massage the salt through the cabbage and leave to stand for 30-60 minutes.  Mix in the berries and seeds.  (These add flavour but are optional).
  3. With washed hands massage the mixture until it is wet and limp.
  4. Fill a sterilized jar with handfuls of the mixture, making sure to press it firmly down with your fist. You will see more liquid seeping out.
  5. Fill the jar to within 2.5cm of the top. For successful fermentation it is crucial to keep the cabbage submerged, so place a weight on it.  [You can use the outer leaves at the top of the kraut and place a weight in the middle.  I have some heavy glass t-light holders which I have found to work well].
  6. Close the lid. Leave it sit for anything from 1 to 6 weeks.
  7. If you are using an airtight jar you may need to burp (release the build-up of carbon dioxide gas) by opening the lid once in a while. [Personally, I have never had to do this and have left my Sauerkraut ferments for 21 days unopened on most occasions.   Just keep an eye on it.  Local temperature is a key factor and in Ireland anyway, temperatures are generally not that high so it slows the process down.  Fermenting is definitely a learning process and you’ll get to know what to expect the more you experiment].
  8. When you are happy with the flavour and texture you can store the jar in the fridge. [I tend to make a bigger amount than I can use so I usually transfer it to smaller jars in the fridge].

Note:  The longer you leave your sauerkraut to ferment the more of a probiotic punch it will contain.

Sauerkraut benefits:

The process of fermentation increases the bio-availability of the plants nutrients making it even more nutritious than the original cabbage.  It is high in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and a very good source of dietary fibre.  Other minerals it contains are iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If you happen to find yourself in love with sauerkraut, please note that moderation is advised.  It is best to eat fermented cruciferous vegetables as condiments, not as large components of the diet.

You can do a deeper dive into the benefits of Sauerkraut here.

For me, as I’ve said, it provides a tasty, easily made and stored source of vegetable and at the same time a source of natural probiotic.  The strains of live friendly bacteria are diverse.  Probiotics in supplement form are great but you could cut out this expense by regularly including fermented foods into your diet.  It is comparatively way less expensive.  It may cost you a little more time in the kitchen but even this is minimal as it becomes just part of your routine.

I started my fermenting journey with Kefir.  I’m not a big fan of milk so I didn’t continue making this for very long.  Then I moved on to making Kombucha.  This is really nice and I tried many and varied types of tea and added flavours.  But, to date my favourite ferment besides Sauerkraut, is ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  It doesn’t have to be lemon. You can find my instructions on this website here. I have most recently tried pomegranate and this turned out to be really, really tasty.

Though my fermenting journey started with my Nutritional Therapy training where we learned to make kefir and water kefir, I currently rely on ‘The Cultured Club’ book by Dearbhla Reynolds to expand my knowledge and experience with ferments.

References

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

World’s Healthiest Foods [On-line] – ‘Optimizing Your Cells’ Detoxification/Cleansing Ability by Eating Cabbage and Other Cruciferous Veg’

Dr. Axe [On-line] – ‘5 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut and How to Make Your Own’

Oven cake – Oat, Cocoa, Banana

I would be more inclined to classify this as a pudding because it is moist and a little dense without being too sweet. All the ingredients are healthy. There is no added sugar, you just have the natural sweetness of the ripe bananas. I’ve taken this recipe from YouTube, I’ll share the link below so you have a good visual to follow.

In the original recipe the oven cake is topped with nuts and melted chocolate. I’ve changed it up a bit and topped it with chopped dried fruit and nuts, by taking a short cut and skipping the melting of the chocolate. I have to say it needs the sweetness of the dried fruit, otherwise you may find it lacking that sweet hit!!  So, either top with chopped dried fruit (I used apricots and almonds chopped) or use dark chocolate melted as in the original recipe.

Ingredients
  • 120g  Oats
  • 250 ml hot milk
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g Cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5g Baking Powder
  • Butter to line oven dish

Topping:

  • Chopped Nuts of choice or dried fruit of choice
  • 50g Dark Chocolate melted

Note: You can buy ‘Gluten free’ Oats if you have issues with wheat sensitivity or Coeliac, otherwise Oats are considered gluten free.  You can use nut milk in place of dairy milk and chia seeds instead of the eggs if you want the recipe to be dairy free.

Method

Separately soak the oats in the hot milk and leave to stand from 10 minutes.

Mash bananas.  Add 2 eggs and mix well.  Add 30g cocoa, pinch of salt, baking powder and mix well.

Combine the oats when cooled off completely.  Mix well.

Place the mixture in a buttered oven dish.  Sprinkle topping of choice (the melted chocolate should only be added after the cake is removed from the oven)

Oven 180°C  for 40-50 mins.

Eating and Serving

I find this so easy to make and it lasts for days in the fridge.  If it makes it past the front door it would travel very well in a container for a hill walk or picnic.  It is filling and sweet without being too sweet.   I take mine with some whipped up coconut cream and sometimes even a drizzle of maple syrup.  Yum!!    🙂 

YouTube link to Video 

Getting started with Sauerkraut

Following the experts

Below is a post that I added to Instagram in April 2020 during the first global lockdown!!   Given the situation, I was doing my best to put out any information I had that would help people support their immune system with everyday foods.  I was new to homemade probiotic food then and so I included a variety of links to the experts. You will find them mentioned in the post below.  I won’t say I’m an expert now, by any means, but I have gained some confidence along the way.  When we try to master a new skill that we haven’t practiced before, the self doubt seems to rise rapidly to the surface.  Fear not!!  Worst case scenario you lose a few fresh ingredients in the process, but even that is unlikely.  More likely you find yourself expanding your knowledge and trying more home made healthy options.

A previous post Probiotic Lemonade is perhaps one of my favourite ways to build my army of friendly microbes.   A more detailed post on the benefits of Sauerkraut as a homemade food based probiotic will follow shortly and in that post I will add a variety of optional flavours and what equipment you may need to get started.

Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade

I follow @theculturedclub on Instagram.  Not… by the way … ‘The Culture Club’.  Am I giving my age away by mentioning that band?? 🙂 🙂  I also have the book entitled ‘The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.  To make my first batch of probiotic fizzy lemonade I just followed Derbhla’s video instructions on Instagram.  There are a couple of video posts dated around end of March 2021 on how to make Lemonade from ‘Ginger Bug’.  There is also a recipe in the book but it is so much easier to follow a visual when you are starting something new.  The ginger bug is like a little production factory of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.  When the fermentation process is established it provides a starter culture added to other ingredients to make a fizzy probiotic drink.  The ginger bug liquid acts in a similar way to a ‘starter dough’ or ‘yeast’ that is added to a bread recipe.

I have to say I am in love with making my own summer fizzy drinks now.  I have tried lemon flavour on its own.  Love it!  I have tried orange flavour on its own.  I’m not so keen on this, it just doesn’t have the same kick [thirst quenching bite] that the lemon has.  However, my favourite combination so far is lemon and lime.  It is simply delicious.  I can hardly stop myself drinking the whole lot once I start.

There are two components to making your probiotic fizzy drink.  The first is making the ‘Ginger Bug’ and the second is making the fizzy drink, we’ll say lemonade, but you can experiment with any flavour you like.

Making the ‘Ginger Bug’

Please note that you only need to make this once after which you just keep it alive.  I’ll explain how further down.

You will need:

  • Organic root ginger and root turmeric  –  1 or 2 stems of each
  • Sugar
  • Filtered water
  • A big enough glass jar with a lid [that would hold approx. 1 litre]

Why organic?  I haven’t tried non-organic so I can’t say for sure, but many of the commenters on the related Instagram post said their attempts using supermarket root ginger and turmeric didn’t produce results and the advice was to use organic.  Perhaps the chemicals used in non-organic doesn’t allow for the same beneficial microflora to grown on the food and subsequently in your ‘ginger bug’ mix.  I bought mine at ‘The Green Door Pantry’ a farmers market in Dublin which sells fresh organic produce.

What to do:

Step 1:  Cut the root ginger and turmeric into small chunks and place them in the glass jar.  Make sure that the jar has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized (especially if it is a food jar that is being re-used).  Next add the filtered water leaving a good inch or two of space at the top.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  The sugar can be white or brown.  I tend to use brown because that is what I usually buy.  Stir it well.

Step 2:  For the first 24 hours leave the lid off the jar.  In order for the mixture to interact with the microorganisms in the atmosphere you will need to place it outdoors, if possible.  I covered mine with a Lidl mesh bag to keep out anything that wasn’t ‘micro’ e.g. flies etc.   [After this initial ‘lid off’ 24 hours, the lid will always be closed on the jar, except when you are feeding or burping the mixture].

Step 3:  Feeding the ‘ginger bug’ initially.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Empty a little of the liquid off and add a little bit of fresh water.   Repeat this for the next 3 days.  The fermentation process is underway.  On the 4th day your ginger bug should be ready for use to make lemonade.

Making the Lemonade

You will need:

  • A separate glass bottle [you can use an old wine bottle with a screw top]
  • Ginger bug starter liquid 
  • Sugar
  • Lemons / Limes  (I find the juice of 3 in total is enough to add to make a pint of liquid)
  • Filtered water

I use measuring spoons for the ginger bug liquid and sugar, but the amount of juice from the fruit doesn’t have to be exact.  You could add 100ml or more.  You can adjust this to suit your own taste.  Derbhla’s instructions says to add 200ml but it’s up to you!!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug solution
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 100-200ml  of fresh squeezed lemon/lime (or other flavour)
  • Filtered water [Enough to fill the rest of the bottle to about 1 to 1½ inches below the neck]

What to do:

You can directly use the glass bottle to mix.  If so, you may need a plastic funnel otherwise it might get messy.  I use a separate plastic pouring jug to mix and then add the mixture to the bottle, before adding the water.

Scoop out 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug syrup from the jar (the ginger and turmeric solids remains in the jar).  Add 4 tablespoons of sugar.  Add your 100-200ml of freshly squeezed juice.  Mix.  (Add this mix to the bottle now if you are using the jug).  Now fill the bottle up to no more than 1 to 1½ inches from the neck with filtered water.  Put the cap on and give it a good shake up and down to mix it well.

Leave your lemonade to stand for 3 days at room temperature.  The warmer the temperature the quicker it will ferment.  More fermentation equals more fizz.   After 3 days have a little taste to sample it.  If it is fizzy enough for your liking you can now put it in the fridge to chill.  Once chilled it is ready to use and enjoy.  Otherwise, you can leave it to ferment for another couple of days and then refrigerate it.

‘Ginger bug’ maintenance

Okay …. don’t panic, it really is NO big deal.   Feeding and temperature are key factors in keeping your ‘ginger bug factory’ alive and ready for lemonade production.

Now that your ginger bug is established,  feeding it is just a simple matter of adding one spoon of sugar, emptying off a little of the liquid and replacing it with a little fresh filtered water.  That’s it!!

You will notice when you add the sugar the ginger bug fizzes up before your eyes.

If your ‘ginger bug’ is sitting with it’s lid on at room temperature 20°C, or warmer,  fermentation will happen.  If that is the case you may need to ‘pop’ or ‘burp’ it once a day.  My ‘ginger bug’ is in a flip top jar [photo above].  I just flip the lid open to release the gas.  It makes a sort of popping sound, similar to when you open a bottle of fizzy drink.  Close it again straight away.  Warning:  Due to carbonation, pressure can build up in the closed jar over a few days and result in an almighty pop when you open the lid or, worse case scenario if you have left it much longer, the jar may explode!!!  So, if in doubt place the jar in the fridge until you plan on using it again.  The cold temperature slows down the fermentation process completely.

For example…. if you only want to make one bottle of lemonade per week and you fear you might not remember to ‘burp’ the ginger bug, OR, if you are going away for a few days or weeks, the best thing to do is to simply place the jar of ‘ginger bug’ in the fridge.

To start up fermentation again, take the ginger bug out of the fridge the night before or early on the day you want to use it again, letting it reach room temperature for at least a few hours before using it.  When you have taken out your starter liquid to make the next bottle(s) of lemonade, remember to feed it again (one spoon of sugar, remove some liquid and top up with fresh water).

Why bother making your own?

For one thing it is just so delicious.  It is made with natural fresh healthy ingredients.  What about the sugar??  The sugar is NOT for you it is what feeds the friendly yeasts and bacteria.  They get the sugar and we get to enjoy the by-product – a probiotic drink!!  That means it is full of beneficial, gut friendly bacteria.  Without going into too much detail, it contains many and varied strains of friendly bacteria including lactobacillus which has many health benefits.

Comparing this drink to a shop bought fizzy lemonade which contains all sort of sugars and chemicals and which might at best be ‘thirst quenching’, but is definitely not health promoting.

More than 2000 years ago the father of modern medicine ‘Hippocrates’ suggested that all diseases begin in the gut.  We now know that 70-80% of our immune system lies directly behind the gut wall.  Increasing the amount of friendly microbes you consume in your diet is key to crowding out pathogens (harmful, disease producing microbes) and is one of the best ways to support your gut, brain and immune health.

It is now widely accepted that adequate beneficial bacteria act as immune modulators.  This means that they are instrumental in regulating how our immune system responds when it encounters harmful (pathogenic) bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites (microbes).  A modulated immune system responds appropriately, neither over or under reacting to a threat.  This ‘appropriate’ balanced response is when the immune system is working at its best.

Not to mention that this is a really, really cheap and tasty way to enjoy homemade lemonade while at the same time benefiting from the probiotics it contains.

I hope you will give it a go and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Reference:

Instagram @theculturedclub

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

Insulin and Fertility

I have been doing lots of research to back up my presentation slides for the workshop on ‘Hormone Balance’ and it has become very apparent that for this and related issues like infertility and excess weight, which are very common today, there are a couple of key drivers.   By making our lives more and more convenient with convenience foods, transport, labour saving devices etc. we run the risk of losing our natural metabolism and balance, resulting in the many chronic diseases we now suffer.  If the original intention was to make life easier it has not equated to less stress and better health.  What we need are whole foods, fresh air, movement, relaxation, sleep, spending time in a natural environment and doing activities that engage us fully.  Modern life has disconnected us from our human nature and even though it makes perfect sense when we are reminded of the simple and basic needs of the body, we have a hard time believing that addressing these needs can have a significant impact on our health.  We can’t turn back time but we can take more control and make better choices for the sake of our health.

One such example is the overproduction of Insulin produced by the pancreas in response to food we have eaten with a high sugar or (glycaemic load), leading to blood sugar imbalance.  We’re not just talking here about white refined sugar, although it is that too, its also white bread, pasta, potatoes, cakes, processed food containing sugar or flour, sweets, alcohol, sodas and even fruit juices that tend to spike blood sugar and cause excess release of insulin. Historically, people had sugar as an occasional treat.  Today …… it is tempting you everywhere you go!  It’s even hidden in foods you would never have expected to find it in.  And, given that sugar in all its forms is highly addictive, as it fires up (endorphins) the addiction chemicals in the brain, it is little wonder we are hooked and coming back for more!

Dr. Mark Hyman has summed it up in a nutshell in his instagram post below.  I couldn’t have put it better myself so you have it here from the expert!  For the ladies and gentlemen who suffer issues of infertility, take note!

What I love about good nutritional advice is that even if you don’t have these particular issues, lowering the glycaemic load of your diet has health benefits for everyone bar none!  Modern life is set up to encourage us all to lean more towards higher glycaemic load foods and lifestyle factors.

View this post on Instagram

I don’t believe it’s coincidence that infertility has increased just like diabetes and obesity has. That’s because excess sugar and subsequent belly fat drive hormonal imbalances and create infertility.⠀ ⠀ In women, these imbalances manifest as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is really a nutritional and metabolic problem that adversely affects insulin and other hormones.⠀ ⠀ PCOS symptoms include irregular or heavy periods, acne, facial hair, scalp hair loss, increased belly fat, and increased levels of testosterone. Studies show PCOS affects 8 to 12 percent of all women, which interestingly correlates with the number of couples who suffer infertility.⠀ ⠀ In men, infertility manifests as lower testosterone, which indicates other hormones like insulin are also out of whack. Among the consequences are bellies, breasts (or man boobs), low sperm count, and decreased sex drive.⠀ ⠀ While problems like PCOS and low testosterone need to be properly assessed, diagnosed, and treated to get your metabolism working again, you have far more control over infertility than you might realize.⠀ ⠀ Studies confirm addressing lifestyle factors – including nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, as well as environmental and occupational exposure –could have substantial effects on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ I recommend my patients take a multivitamin and other supplements and eat a whole food, low-glycemic-load, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. Those strategies alone can have an enormous impact on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ While I ultimately encourage you to work with a Functional Medicine doctor to address and correct these problems, I have found these seven strategies can help anyone (female and male) balance hormones, reverse infertility, and create abundant health.⠀ ⠀ – Go low glycemic. ⠀ – Implement supplements like vitamin D, B vitamins, fish oil L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 ⠀ – Fix your gut by including gut-supporting foods like fermented foods, as well as fiber and probiotics.⠀ – Exercise regularly.⠀ – Control stress.⠀ – Get sufficient sleep.⠀ – Reduce your environmental toxin exposure. ⠀ ⠀ #pcos #hormonalimbalance #insulin #infertility

A post shared by Mark Hyman, M.D. (@drmarkhyman) on

If you click into the post on-line, among the hundreds of comments is one from a woman who states that her 17 year old daughter exists only because she changed her diet and lifestyle after being told she would never have children.  There are many more stories like this in the comments and around us everyday that you don’t hear about.

I have seen for myself in clinic, on a number of occasions, the very real success of balancing hormones for fertility.  It does require dedicated compliance to dietary and lifestyle changes but these are not beyond anyone’s capabilities.

The other driver of hormonal imbalances including infertility is excess ‘cortisol‘ levels in the body.  Cortisol is the stress hormone.  Eating a lower glycaemic load diet will help with overproduction of cortisol too.  Getting some moderate exercise, managing stress levels with mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing or finding a hobby that is engaging enough to reduce stress levels.    Also, getting adequate shut eye (sleep), will really help.

Conditions are more favourable for fertility when the body is in ‘relaxed mode’ or parasympathetic nervous system mode, and not in ‘fight or flight’ or sympathetic nervous system mode.  Our modern high stimulation diet and a lifestyle which is fast paced, indulgent, highly stressful and busy busy busy, sends a message to the body…… “this is not a good time to have a baby, I’m way too busy just surviving”.  The dietary and nutrition suggestions in the post are right on point to aid fertility.  Also, to bring your body into parasympathetic mode instantly, practice deep breathing or tuning in to your breathing on a regular basis.  Start by doing some long exhales (10 in succession) and soon you will be breathing deeply.  Another easy technique to switch your body into parasympathetic mode is to elevate your legs above the level of your heart.  Lying flat on the floor use a chair, the bed or the wall to elevate your legs and relax for 5 minutes in this position.  A daily practice will impact over time and the body will get the message “life is good, I am calm and capable, all is well, I have plenty of resources to reproduce”!

You can follow Dr Mark Hyman on instagram or by searching for ‘Dr Mark Hyman Instagram’ on line.

These strategies are not rocket science but are shown to bring about positive results for those that implement them.   The view that there needs to be a pill for every ill, as if we are machines that need a screw here and a drop of oil there, is being replaced with an integrative approach to restoring health to the body that recognizes us as individual beings, affected by our unique genetics, environment, food, movement, sleep, thoughts, emotions and beliefs.

 

Further reading recommendations:

  • The Low-GL Diet Bible, Patrick Holford
  • The Low- GL Diet Cookbook, Patrick Holford
  • Fat Around the Middle, Marilyn Glenville, PhD
  • The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee [Balanced Living]
  • The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried M.D. [Hormone Balance]

 

© Limelight Nutrition 2019

Kitchen Ready for Eating Healthy

One of the biggest barriers to maintaining healthy eating habits comes in those moments when you are hungry and just want something to eat regardless! No one likes to be hungry.  Food is fuel and we need to tank up at least a few times in the day.  Unless you are stocked up and prepared for those moments, its pretty certain you’re going to grab whatever is quick, easily prepared or just to hand, to satisfy that growling tummy!!

Added to this we live in a world that makes it so easy for us to fill up on those convenient nutrition-less empty calories.   The occasional instant gratification is completely fine, but not only are we humans hungry creatures, we are also creatures of habit and that ‘occasional’ soon becomes a regular habit.  And, guess what, those same foods are usually addictive, so if you don’t want to get hooked you’re best off avoiding them.

Does this sound familiar to you?  Well you are not alone!  This is a challenge that so many of us deal with on a day to day basis, and the only way around it is to be prepared.  A really good place to start is with a kitchen makeover.  Bringing fresh energy and fresh food into the kitchen and removing all of the foods and items that make us unhealthy and unwell, is an important step to making better choices and overcoming food cravings and addictions.

The cure for what ails us all, in both our bodies and the world outside our front door, can be found in the kitchen.  It could be a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, and enrich and nourish our bodies and souls.

But first, we need to break the addiction cycle and put a halt to our cravings.  These cravings may have sabotaged your weight loss efforts now or in the past?  Why not stack the odds in your favour by removing the items that have kept you trapped, sick and miserable?  Or, to put it another way: Why not set yourself up for optimal success by making your kitchen a happy, hopeful place filled only with delicious real whole foods that will nourish and genuinely feed your body and soul?

If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than damage, then you will automatically make the right choices.  If you fill it with processed convenience foods, you will eat that junk no matter how much willpower you have.

Kitchen ready in 4 easy steps

Step 1:  Reclaim your kitchen by replacing anything that is processed with real, fresh, whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label, a bar code or an ingredient list.  Some of the more questionable items are those that come in boxes, jars, cans and other packaging.  In other words most convenience foods.  When reading through the ingredients, look for items that you don’t recognize, can’t pronounce, are listed in Latin or aren’t items you would normally have in your cupboard. Think twice about purchasing  foods with health claims on the labels.  These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just pretending to be healthy.  Examples include items like sports beverages, energy bars and even cereals fortified with this, that and the other.

Step 2: In a bid to remove all the junk food from the cupboard, don’t forget that this includes any food which contains added sugar and goods that contain refined and processed white flours.  Examples include biscuits, cakes, white bread and white pasta.  Even seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin and autolyzed yeast extract, that have no place in a healthy kitchen.  Sometimes you need a magnifier to read labels.  This is convenient for the food producer and makes it less likely that you will examine it.  Option 1:  Buy a magnifying glass?  Option 2:  Buy only packaged foods with a minimum of added ingredients.  If you are finding that you require a degree in food chemistry to identify the ingredients on a package, simply leave it on the supermarket shelf.

Step 3: Remove all unhealthy fats. The wrong fats can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Throw out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer and margarine or shortening. These products have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease.  Check food labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has been declared as unsafe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA} in the US.  The Food Safety Authority in Ireland is not quite there yet but cautions somewhat about excess consumption of trans fats.  The science is much more clear – they are damaging to your health, full stop!

Step 4: Throw out any food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols — any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol).  Stevia may be better than aspartame but only whole plant extract.  You may be able to purchase this from a health store.  And when using whole plant extract stevia, use it sparingly.  But remember, any sweetener can cause you to be hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, disrupt you brain chemistry and store belly fat.  You can’t fool your body, it tastes the sweetness and looks for the hit.  No calories, no energy, no hit… physiological response… I need more!!  In the long run it may actually be wiser to use some cane or coconut sugar.

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to chuck out these toxic foods before you do your next shop, then just don’t continue to replace them once they are gone.  You will quickly and easily be able to swap them with delicious healthy alternatives that will leave you more than satisfied.

Stock Up On the Right Foods

Next, you’ll want to fill your fridge with plenty of fresh/frozen vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins and fats.  You’ll also want to keep plenty of healthy snacks around in case you ever run into a food emergency. Instead of reaching for sugary, processed snacks, you can reach for nourishing ones like nuts and seeds, dips and veggies, fresh fruit and more.

Step 1: Focus on non-starchy veggies. These are things like broccoli, kale, tomatoes, bok choy, peppers, asparagus, cauliflower and so much more!  Eat as many as you like!  Limit fruit to twice per day because, although healthy, they can increase your insulin levels.  Berries are low glycaemic and so these are fine.  Have your fruit with a source of fat or protein.  Example:  frozen berries with some live natural yogurt or an apple with a handful of almonds.  Whenever possible choose organic, seasonal and local produce.

Step 2: Stock up on dry foods. These staples usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, legumes, lentils, quinoa, brown or wild rice and gluten-free grains like oats, buckwheat and millet.  These can form the basis of hot, cold, savoury and sweet dishes.

Step 3: You’ll want to have a range of ingredients including herbs, seasonings and spices to hand.  Buy organic whenever possible.  ‘The Health Store Ireland’ do a range of organic spices ‘Suma’ which are no more expensive than what you buy in the supermarket.  Also, many of the Asian stores stock organic spices.  Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them.  Here are some suggestions of what you might stock up on: Extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, sea salt, black peppercorns, and spices like turmeric, ginger, oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic and more.  If you buy these in the supermarket just read the labels to make sure they don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten or other problematic additives.

Step 4: Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with protein. Good protein choices include: boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breasts; beef, lamb and fish like sardines, salmon and herring.  Avoid those fish that are high in mercury such as tuna and swordfish.  Free range or organic eggs are a great source of protein as are  non-GMO soy food like tofu, tempeh and gluten-free miso.

Step 5: Get yourself a folder.  Build up your very own recipe collection and meal plans for the kitchen shelf.  No one knows you and your family’s taste buds better than you do.  It’s easy to just say, I’ll buy tons of veggies and some fruit and healthy meats and fats, but what are you going to do with all of that food?  Just start on a new path with a step by step approach to healthier eating.  Begin maybe with a breakfast makeover, snacks makeover, lunches make over then dinners makeover. Healthy does not have to be boring or tasteless.  Try to develop snack and meal plans that will ensure plenty of flavour and variety.  By degrees your shopping trolly will be filled with real, recognizable food.

Here’s one to start off your collection – a link to a recipe for home made ‘Low Sugar Sweet & Sour Sauce’ that can be used in many different dishes.  Its on the website of Christine Bailey, Nutritional Therapist, who was part of a BBC documentary about hidden sugars in everyday foods.

Eating food that is good for you is not about feeling deprived though it may seem like that if you haven’t even taken the first step.  If you choose the right foods and the right recipes, you can reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without feeling denied.  With the right planning your’re well on your way to banishing those cravings and gaining your health back.   As creatures of habit it’s a little challenging at first but it will soon become effortless.  A new habit!  And remember, nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!

© Limelight Nutrition 2019

Shamrock Guac!

Holy Guacamole! 

Its green and it’s packed full of goodness, so its the perfect dish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  Guacamole has its origins with the Aztec’s of Mexico.  By most accounts, the ancient version of the dish was originally made with mashed avocados, chili peppers, tomatoes, white onions and salt.  Not that much has changed but there are more versions available today.  My recipe for guacamole is at the bottom of this post.

Guacamole is comprised mainly of avocados which are ranked as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world.  Although avocado is actually a fruit, it is great in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Its ‘superfood’ status has been cast into the shadows for years while low fat diets have been promoted in the media as a healthier option.  But, avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids [MUFA] that are critical for health and deliver many health benefits.

A food qualifies as a ‘superfood’ based on the amount of beneficial nutrients it contains and avocados are packed full of nutrients that promote many health benefits.  Even the perceived downside of it being a ‘high fat’ food does not warrant leaving it on the supermarket shelf.  These are healthy fats that actually help you absorb the other nutrients the fruit contains.

100g of avocado contains between 10-26% RDA [recommended daily allowance] of Vitamin E, B6, B5, Potassium [more than bananas], Vitamin C, Folate and Vitamin K.  It contains smaller amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, Vitamin B1, B2 and B3.  160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 15 grams of healthy fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 of which is fibre.  No cholesterol or sodium.   The fatty acids are oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat like that in olive oil.  These fats help with absorption of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants.  Speaking of antioxidants, avocados contain carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin.

Here are just some of the health benefits of consuming nutrient dense avocados:

Improved heart health:  By balancing blood lipids with high monounsaturated fatty acids [oleic acids].  Vitamin K helps with circulation and fibre, magnesium and potassium are shown to reduce blood pressure.

Healthy skin and eyes:  Again the healthy fats lubricate and nourish the skin from the inside out.  The carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin are very beneficial for eye health.  Avocados are anti-aging.

Helps weight loss: Yes, you heard it right!  Diets that are lower in carbohydrates (especially glycaemic loaded foods like refined carbs) and higher in healthy fats, are known to accelerate weight loss.  So, if you are looking to lose weight fast, eat more avocados and less white refined carbs. Also, fats are more filling and increase satiety hormones that help you eat less overall.

Improved digestive health: Avocados are rich in fibre that feed your beneficial gut bacteria and bulk up the stool.  This makes for easier transit through the colon helping the body remove waste and toxins.

Protection from diabetes: Avocados are rich in MUFAs that promote healthy blood lipid profiles, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood glucose levels.   MUFA dense foods can help decrease glucose and insulin concentrations for hours compared with carbohydrate rich foods.

Better mood and balanced hormones: Because various neurotransmitters and hormones are made in the body from fatty acids in the diet, you will automatically benefit these systems when you eat enough healthy fats.  Considering 60% of our brain is made up of fat, it is not surprising that healthy fats are good for brain function, mood and memory.

The following guacamole recipe serves 4 and is gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian.  It’s just like they serve it in Mexico.  It works well as a side dish or with crudities or oat cakes.  Once made it will keep in the fridge in an airtight jar or container.  Just pour a thin layer of water over the top, then put the lid on and pop it in the fridge – this will stop it browning.  When serving, drain off as much of the water as you can, give it a good mix and it will be as good as new.

Guacamole

Source: Google Images

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • ¼ large red onion, diced
  • 10g (¼ oz) fresh coriander finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Method:

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, scoop the flesh from the skin and add it to a large bowl.  Add in the onion, coriander, garlic, lime juice and a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper.

Mash everything together with a fork so it is chunky / smooth to your liking.  You can also use a blender.  Taste and add more salt, pepper or lime to your liking.

Serve straight away or store as suggested above.

Have a Happy and Healthy St. Patrick’s Day 🙂

© Limelight Nutrtion 2019

Get these Anti’s

A new born baby has an absorbent mind, like a sponge!  This allows the baby to easily learn the language spoken by the people around them.  It does this learning so effortlessly it might appear that it was destined by its DNA just like the colour of its hair.  But this is not the case!  Language does not grow like hair and teeth.  Acquiring a language is a learning skill that involves lots of interaction between the brain and the outside world.  The child’s mind is particularly suited for this task.  Amazing as this is, acquiring language doesn’t end with childhood.  Have you noticed that when you embark on a new project, interest, area of study or line of work, there is a whole new language that goes with it?  It dawns on me sometimes when I’m happily listing off the health benefits of a particular food, saying it’s anti this that and the other, that perhaps people don’t really get it.  As adults we have a tendency to skim past what we don’t immediately understand.  It’s like a foreign language, you just blank it out.  So, I’d like to pause and explain a couple of very important ‘anti’s’ as they relate to nutrition and health.

Getting the Anti’s

Oxidation, inflammation, cancer, bacteria and viruses etc. are enemies to the health of the body which needs supportive nutrients and other factors to fight back.  Simply put, if you wanted to address a bacterial threat you would choose anti-bacterial properties.  So, in general, ‘anti’ as a prefix is a good thing!  It is pretty obvious what anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-histamine, anti-aging and anti-cancer mean.  Foods, supplements, essential oils, remedies etc. that have these ‘anti’ properties support the body in fighting that particular threat.

Inflammation and oxidation are less easily understood.  We loosely associate inflammation with pain.  We seek out anti-inflammatories at the Pharmacy for this, yet the harmful effects of inflammation go way, way beyond aches and pains!   And, when it comes to oxidative damage, unless you have studied nutrition or biochemistry, you might easily glaze over with this one too.

So, if you want to read on, I will explain a little bit more about the insidious effects of inflammation and oxidation on the body, how it gets there and why we all need the support of anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants.

Continue reading “Get these Anti’s”

We are Eaters

I have always liked the idea that natural foods, plants and nature provide the best medicines for our health and wellbeing.  It makes the most sense as we are all connected to the world around us, right?  We can’t live without food.  Food needs the sun, atmosphere and soil etc. to grow.  Our bodies need what natural foods provide.  How long would we last without air?  We need to interact daily with others.  Like it or not we are all human, more connected and at the same time more vulnerable than we’d often like to think of ourselves as.

Well, I invite you to think about it just a little as you read this post, especially in relation to food and you as an eater.

Since starting my nutrition training I have been a fan and follower of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.  Their stated mission is to re-unite the psychology of eating with the science of nutrition.   I understand this to mean that you cannot consider the body’s needs without considering the needs of the soul.  ‘Soul’ meaning the individual person with their own unique body, needs, wants, experiences, emotions, senses, circumstances and responses to life.  My own observation [not judgement] with clients and people in general, is how our attitude to food and eating completely reflects our attitude to ourselves and life.

My experience is that some people view a nutrition qualification as a personal attribute.  As if acquiring this qualification has transformed one into someone who never lets an unhealthy food pass their lips … And, has now morphed into the role of watching and judging every bite others make, like the ‘diet police’!  Well, on both counts, that’s not me!  You may, of course, come across people who do take on and enjoy such a role.  No, I’m just like you but with an acquired knowledge and interest in the benefits of nutrition which I love to share.   I can be your guide, supporter or educator, but not your judge or savior.  I believe that healthier eating is a life-long challenge, a choice and a personal responsibility.  And, because eating is something you and I have to do each and every day, I see it as an ideal opportunity for growth and transformation.  That said, knowledge of food is for the mind but food and eating as an experience goes far beyond this to the very core of our being.

I came across this Instagram post by the_food_psychology_clinic in the UK.  It speaks poetically about how closely connected ‘eating’ can be to our thoughts and feelings.  For some it can often represent a huge internal struggle.   I have consent from the account owner to share it here.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpB0SocgAsM/

I’ve shared this because even though my qualification is the nutrition science bit and not eating psychology, I have found it is quite impossible in reality to separate the two.  I acknowledge everyone as an eater.  If we were purely physical beings, the knowledge of what to eat in the best interest of our health, would be enough.  Like how to put the correct fuel in your car….. petrol and a little oil in this one, but diesel and lots of oil in this other one.  The reality is we are more than physical beings and often our food choices are motivated by unconscious thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  The above Instagram post is about overeating but it could just as easily be about depriving yourself of food.  The point is, its really about negative thoughts and feelings wrapped around eating.  Yet, eating can be a joyous, satisfying, healthy, creative, not to mention completely necessary experience.

Have a think about what your relationship with food is?  Does it mirror how you feel and think?  If you recognize yourself in any of this, the knowledge of healthy eating will not be enough.  It might even become a stick for you to punish yourself with.  More bad feelings?  That won’t help!  The issue is not a lack of knowledge.  Practicing some mindfulness and self-inquiry around eating, or working with someone that has a greater understanding of eating behaviors, might help.

The food psychology clinic is UK based and you can make contact via the Instagram account. I am only aware of one Nutritional Therapist in Ireland who deals in this particular area of work.  Here: www.straightforwardnutrition.com

Finally, I can’t count the number of times people have told me stories like “Oh, so and so died…… and s/he was so into healthy eating”!  There is no promise of immortality in choosing to eat a healthier diet.  The point of dealing with food or eating issues is that you can feel better today, have a better quality life than if you didn’t and possibly live a little longer.  This is not without it’s challenges but it is within your grasp.  As human beings we know we are affected on many levels by factors other than by what we eat, but this is the one area where we can reclaim some personal power over our own well being.

© Limelight Nutrition 2019