February 21, 2015
A few decades ago, the low fat message for heart health was born and has since been adopted as the golden rule of nutrition – but have we got it all wrong? Actually – as you may have noticed – this is a hot topic in the media at the moment and there is a lot of hotly debated research for both camps going on.
What we do know, however, is that with the message of low fat, came a whole heap of added sugars.
Take a look down your supermarket isle, and I’m sure you’ll see many a product proudly labeled ‘low-fat’ and ‘fat-free’.
The makers of these products were faced with a dilemma when these new guidelines came out – fat tastes good – and if they removed most or all of the fat from their products – what were they to put in its place? The answer of course, is sugar. Cheap, readily available, and highly refined. This rise in added sugars is perhaps the single biggest health trap we have fallen down, and with serious consequence.
Sugars are thus hidden in many processed foods (cereals, snack bars, yoghurts, ice creams, frozen meals, pizzas…), and today I’m using flavoured milks as just one example. Typically, a small carton of chocolate milk can contain as much sugar as a can of soft drink! Sneaky!
A small can of coke (355ml) contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar (38g) and a smaller 250ml carton of Nippy’s flavoured milk contains around 7 teaspoons (28g).
The World Health Organisation currently recommends that not more than 10% of your daily calories come from free sugars (added sugars) – this would equal about 12 level teaspoons for an average adult, though they have recently been reviewing this and pushing for a new limit of just half that amount – to below 5%.
Whilst we need quality carbohydrates in our diets (think whole grains), we don’t actually need any free sugar, and excess consumption is linked to a range of health problems such as obesity, Type-2 Diabetes and tooth decay. Tooth decay by the way is the most prevalent non-communicable disease (non-infectious or not spread from person to person) globally – and it is preventable. Finally sugar is also incredibly inflammatory and just outright bad news for any of us with auto-immune conditions.
In general – if you are going to buy something in a packet – and it says ‘low-fat’ – think to yourself – so what’s in its place? Turn it over and read the label. Look at the sugars listed under the carbohydrates. If its under 5g per 100g then it is considered low sugar, but if its low fat or fat free, this is where all added sugar is revealed. Out sneak them. Make it at home from scratch, or choose products with no added sweeteners.
In all honesty, there is not a single product or recipe out there that you can’t recreate at home using whole foods and natural sweeteners that come packaged up with other goodies like vitamins, minerals and fibre (will this statement come back to bite me?! I’m up for the healthy food make over challenge!).
So have a read of all these super easy alternatives to making yummy flavoured milks at home (also note, you may have noticed I’m not a fan of dairy, so I’ve firstly included a basic nut milk recipe):
First, make a yummy nut milk:
- Soak 1 cup of nuts or seeds (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds – if you use sesame or hemp seeds however they don’t need soaking).
- Add to a blender with 1 cup of shredded coconut (optional, but this makes it far creamier) and 4 cups of water, blend well.
- Drain the milk through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, discard the pulp.
- Blend again with a small pinch of pink Himalayan Rock Salt and a little vanilla.
Boom. Dairy free milk.
To sweeten, use a little of any of these:
- Medjool date
- Maple syrup / honey (small amounts)
- Coconut nectar
- A dash of rice malt syrup
- A teaspoon of xylitol (totally sugar free sweetener derived from the Birch tree)
Then flavour it naturally with these:
- Fresh or frozen berries
- Pomegranate seeds
- A whole vanilla bean
- Raw cacao powder
- Carob powder
- A teaspoon of mesquite powder
- A teaspoon of lucuma powder
- Medjool date as the sweetener (they naturally have a caramel-esque taste – yummo)
- Pinch of turmeric (just for colour)
- Half a banana
- Teaspoon of lucuma powder
- Teaspoon of bee pollen
- A whole vanilla bean
- Raw cacao powder
- Carob powder
- A teaspoon of instant coffee dissolved in hot water, or, if you are avoiding caffeine (yes! Go you!), try using a dandelion / chicory based herbal coffee instead
- A teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Tiny pinch of cardamom
- A whole vanilla bean
- Tiny pinch of Himalayan sea salt
- Bonus – try making the milk with pistachios
- A handful of freshly picked mint
- Half a teaspoon of spirulina or barley grass powder (for extra added colour)
February 13, 2015
Ok lovers, a little something special for Valentine’s Day. This is a pretty simple bliss ball recipe that has some special aphrodisiac and tonic herbs added to the mix. They may be nice to enjoy after dinner and before bed, wink wink.
Oh, the irony of me making these – with a long-distance love! Anyway, I’m sure you will enjoy them for me.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa), a small shrub with yellow star shaped flowers, from Central America, is a lovely herb with a well known and ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac, despite it actually not been scientifically proven. It is perhaps best known more as a male tonic, though it enhances libido (and stamina) for both men and women, and in fact, is often found in various supplements sold in sex stores.
Damiana has also traditionally been used as a muscle relaxant and as a tonic for the nervous and endocrine systems. This means a herbalist may use it in treating conditions such as nervousness, anxiety, depression and menstrual irregularities.
I found damiana quite easily in a natural foods store, as the whole dried herb. A spice or coffee grinder will easily turn it into a fine powder (this is how it is used for this recipe), although I used a high powered blender and that worked fine too.
You can of course also enjoy it as a tea – I find it has a slightly stimulating effect so it makes it a little harder to fall asleep!
I’ve used maca powder in lots of my recipes – it is one of my personal favourites. A root vegetable that grows high in the Andes, it is well known as an adaptogen (a term used to describe how a plant will help a person better adapt to stress). Maca is great for balancing out your hormones (actually – this is why I love it so much – it definitely takes the edge off PMS), gives you energy, stamina, endurance, and boosts libido. I take a tablespoon in my smoothies for breakfast, but its earthy taste works great in baking (and un-baking!) too.
Ok – so not an aphrodisiac at all – but these nutrient dense, protein packed seeds will give you lasting energy and endurance, not a bad thing to add to an Aphrodisiac Bliss Ball, no?
One last fun tid bit – vanilla beans come from a special variety of the orchid flower, and were believed by the Ancient Mayans to have powerful aphrodisiac qualities.
I’d say we have one pretty potent recipe right here! Hope you enjoy them,
Aphrodisiac Bliss Balls
Makes about 14
1 cup coconut, desiccated
1 ½ cups almond meal
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
½ banana (about 62g)
¼ cup chia seeds (I used white)
½ teaspoon beet powder (optional – for a pink colour)
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon Damiana, powdered
2 tablespoons maca powder
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ cup coconut flakes
+ extra orange zest and shredded coconut to roll in
- Add all ingredients except the orange zest and coconut flakes, to a food processor and blitz to combine.
- Add the zest and larger coconut flakes for a quick pulse.
- Roll into equal sized balls.
- Cover a small plate with shredded coconut and extra orange zest, and roll the balls to coat them.
- These are best kept in the fridge as they have fresh banana in them.
February 6, 2015
This plant powered meal is easy to prepare and super satisfying. If you are cooking for guests, adding toasted nuts and seeds and freshly cut micro greens will dress it up perfectly.
I love how these beautiful gluten free grains (or pseudo-grains) are alkalizing to the body and provide such a vast array of nutrients.
Quinoa, the ‘Mother Grain’, is a good source of calcium and iron. It also contains phosphorus for healthy bones, the antioxidant vitamin E, and B vitamins.
One cup of cooked quinoa gives you about 8g of quality protein, providing all the essential amino acids.
Green Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
Half an avocado
Handful of coriander
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One zucchini, grated
Large handful of fresh herbs: mint, parsley, oregano
One stalk of celery, finely chopped
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pine nuts
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pop the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well, then add to 2 cups of cold water in a pot, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
- In a hand held stick blender, blitz the avocado, coriander, olive oil and salt to make a green sauce.
- Fold this through the cooked quinoa with the zucchini, fresh herbs and celery.
- Gently toast the sunflower seeds and pine nuts, then sprinkle over the quinoa salad.
- Top with freshly picked micro greens and fresh herbs, season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
January 30, 2015
Only my hubby-to-be would ever agree to rolling out of bed (on his holiday) at the crack of dawn, to wander down to my secret spot, mason jar in hand, to forage and collect herbs for a medicine-making project of mine. Aww.
We must have looked such a site. Me lying in the grass taking pictures of red clover with the sun rising behind it, and him crouching down amongst the weeds carefully choosing the bestest clover heads for my infusion.
So whilst this is perhaps the simplest of remedies I’m sharing with you today – it’s actually a pretty special one.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Infusion for Psoriasis and Skin Conditions
This pretty little flower is a common weed you may have seen growing in un mown grass and in the green patches on sidewalks around the city. It’s actually a very special herbal remedy for women and for skin.
One of its actions is as a depurative (also referred to as an alterative). This is actually a very old, traditional Herbal Medicine term, and refers to the plant’s ability to detoxify and assist in elimination – reducing the accumulation of metabolic wastes.
By getting the blood flowing and aiding elimination, you are able to clear skin conditions by moving the waste that builds up underneath the skin’s surface. This is what makes it such a beautiful remedy for chronic skin disorders including dermatitis and psoriasis.
Red clover flowers differ from the regular, pale brown clover, though both are a favourite with the bees and make beautiful honey. When you forage for them, it is best to choose an area that hasn’t been sprayed. A tradition I like to follow, is to give a small offering to the plant and ask permission before harvesting, only taking what you need and no more. In the Native American Indian tradition, they would give a little tobacco – which is a sharing plant – such a sweet offering. The late spring and summer months are the perfect time to pick them.
In addition to purifying the blood, red clover was traditionally used to clear the respiratory system of mucous (due to its lymphatic and expectorant actions).
It is also traditionally used for the treatment of menopause and hot flushes, and as an anti-cancer medicine (again, for its ability to detoxify and aid elimination),.
Red clover is a great source of vitamins and minerals, an extremely nourishing plant.
The recipes below use fresh red clover flowers – but you should be able to find the dried flowers at a natural foods store, or from a herbal supplier such as Astral Herbs (Australia).
Red Clover Tea
- Freshly harvested red clover flower heads
To make an infusion, pour boiling water over a couple of teaspoons of red clover flowers and steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink the tea three times a day.
If you have any flowers leftover after making your tea, add them to a salad.
Red Clover Infusion
This recipe has a much longer steeping time than a regular tea (which many herbalists would actually refer to as an infusion) – as taught to me by my Herbal teacher on my Shamanic Herbal Apprenticeship.
- 1 litre glass jar with a lid
- Enough red clover heads to fill the jar
Fill a glass jar with red clover heads, right to the very top.
Cover it entirely with boiling water and screw the lid on.
Let steep for eight hours, or overnight.
Strain out the plant material, give it back to the earth for compost and drink the tea.
The benefit of preparing a long infusion this way is that it enables all the precious minerals to be extracted.
1. Kerry, B and Mills, S. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Second Edition. 2013.
2. University of Maryland Medical Center, Red Clover. Ehrlich, S. 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015 from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/red-clover
2 Responses to “Red Clover Infusion for Psoriasis and Skin Conditions”
January 16, 2015
This Açai Bowl is something you can prepare in minutes to help you cool down in the afternoon sun. The perfect alternative to store bought ice creams laden with refined sugars and other nasties. I experimented with two new flavours here – adding the basil and the hibiscus to the berry base – it’s a winner. Hibiscus by the way isn’t just a pretty face…
This beautiful herb is often used in love spells, and once upon a time, it was said that a man would fall for a woman if he took a sprig of basil from her. It’s useful for calming an upset stomach and easing cramps. Basil compliments berries so well – such a flavour explosion.
I literally had to do a u-turn while driving to stop and admire (ok, and pinch a few) stunning pink hibiscus flowers down a side street. It’s no surprise that these beauties are ruled by the planet Venus, and in folklore, they were used for their lust-inducing powers. It is easy enough to find hibiscus tea, and a bit trickier (but worth it) to source hibiscus powder. In traditional herbal medicine, they are used for the heart and circulation, lowering blood pressure, and for supporting respiratory health.
The flowers themselves are rich in protective antioxidants – there’s a bit of Venus’s influence – adding to longevity and wrinkle free skin!
Basil, Hibiscus and Açai Bowl
½ frozen banana
¾ cup frozen blueberries
¼ cup tightly packed fresh basil
1 tablespoon açai berry powder
½ cup freshly brewed and chilled hibiscus tea
2 teaspoons coconut nectar
1 tablespoon coconut butter
Good squeeze of lemon
Blend lightly (you want it a little thicker).