April 22, 2014
Last week we looked at some great plant-based sources of iron, so today I am sharing three of my favourite herbs. Then, later in the week, I will also share a simple, home made iron syrup, using the following herbs.
You will be happy to know that all of these are highly common – although I have to tell you, they are all weeds. Yes, weeds! Weeds are some of the most nutritious and nutrient dense botanicals were can get access to. Consider this, they will grow in the most desolate of waste lands, in places where there really isn’t much on offer. Yet still they thrive. Weeds are actually quite highly evolved, and send their taproots deep into the earth in order to access her minerals.
With this in mind, you can understand how underrated they actually are! Meet three of my favourites…
Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus
Part used: root
Also known as: Curly Dock
Lovely Yellow Dock is considered a weed in most countries, growing wildly along roadsides, forest edges, railway beds and car parks. If only people knew the value hidden in her leaves. The leaves are edible and can be used in soups or lightly steamed and have a slightly lemony taste. They can also be eaten raw in salads or in a green smoothie, although they have quite a high oxalic acid content, which binds with calcium in the body, inhibiting absorption. The simple way around this is to simply have a balanced diet. By rotating your greens (weeds, herbs and other foods rich in oxalic acid), oxalates will have a negligible effect on your overall health and wellbeing.
Traditionally used to cleanse the liver and the bowel. It has a gentle laxative effect, which makes it effective for treatment of constipation. It also stimulates the production of bile, which is released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, and assists in the break down of fats into smaller, digestible pieces. For this reason it is often used in bitters formulas to stimulate digestion. Additionally, its effect on the liver can assist with jaundice.
Yellow Dock is also often used in clearing skin eruptions and psoriasis. Crushed and applied topically it can soothe itchy skin.
But best of all, Yellow Dock has a rich iron content, so is particularly useful for treating anaemia. It combines well with Dandelion and Nettle, which are also fabulous sources of iron. Yellow Dock is also rich in phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A and C.
Watch outs – it may cause dermatitis and in excess produces nausea.
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Part used: root, leaf
Also known as: Lion’s teeth, Fairy clock, Priest’s crown, Swine’s snout
Dandelion is also a very common weed, found in meadows, lawns, and roadside, but is one of the Herbalist’s most treasured herbs. Another edible weed, you can have the leaves fresh in a salad. They have a slightly bitter and tangy taste. They can also be lightly steamed and served simply with a little sea salt, freshly ground pepper and olive oil. The root is roasted and ground and sold as a coffee alternative. The flowers can be used to make Dandelion wine.
As with Yellow Dock, Dandelion is a bitter herb so is used as a tonic for the liver and digestive system. In fact, it is considered one of the premiere herbs for the liver, gently clearing it of toxins. It too has a gentle laxative effect.
Dandelion is also traditionally used for skin conditions, as it cleanses the blood and tissues.
Dandelion is also a natural diuretic, which is useful for clearing the body of excess fluid. Because it has a rich potassium content, it is a balanced diuretic, replacing what the body loses.
Dandelion is an extremely nutrient dense herb. It is rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamins B, C, D, and even more vitamin A than carrots.
It is also high in protein and choline – an essential nutrient that helps keep your cell membranes in tip top shape. It is a great source of inulin, a natural soluble dietary fibre, which promotes growth of good bacteria in the colon.
Lastly, it is indeed a wonderful source of iron.
Nettle, Urtica doica
Part used: ariel parts
Also known as: Stinging nettle
Once again, nettle is a common weed that loves to grow in waste land and along roadsides. One of my favourite herbs, nettle is incredibly tasty. You have to be careful when you pick it because it will sting you. But these stings are easily neutralised when you either blanch in hot water or blend. I love to add nettle to my smoothies. Another favourite way is to steam them well. They have a mild, creamy, nutty flavour. They make an absolutely divine tea. You may be able to find fresh nettle and other edible weeds at your local Farmer’s market.
Nettles are a tonic for the whole body, especially the blood, making them a girl’s best friend when in need of some PMS relief, and are also a great tonic for the genitourinary system.
Because nettles are cleansing for the blood, they are also fantastic for skin conditions, as the blood feeds the skin. Often used to clear eczema, and even in hair and scalp potions.
Nettles also have an astringent property. Astringent simply means ‘drawing together’ or ‘tightening’, so here we find use for them in nose bleeds.
Nettles are iron rich, but also have a high vitamin C content. The vitamin C aids in the absorption of the iron. Double win! They are also incredibly nutrient dense, and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals.
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, Rosemary Gladstar. 2008.
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Simon Mills and Kerry Bone. 2000.
Holistic Herbal. David Hoffman. 1990.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Michael Murray, N.D. Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Lara Pizzorno, M.A., L.M.T. 2005
April 21, 2014
With all my talk about plant-based sources of iron last week, I thought I would share this simple iron rich meal. Yum yum.
The quinoa, pumpkin seeds, kale and beans are all great sources.
Another exam for me this week, positive vibes welcomed!
Kale and Quinoa with Pumpkin Bean Mash
½ cup quinoa
2 big handfuls of curly kale
½ a shallot, finely chopped
Zest of half a lemon
Few slices of garlic
4 slices pumpkin (1 cm thick)
1 can organic cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Finely chopped spring onion
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
Toasted pumpkin seeds to decorate
- Rinse the quinoa well and drain. Add to a pot and cover with 1 cup of water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cook till soft
- As the quinoa cooks, prepare the pumpkin and bean mash. Use a silicon brush to coat to the pumpkin in coconut oil
- Place in a hot oven (200˚C) on a tray lined with baking paper and cook for 15 minutes or until done. Cool
- Once cooled, use a hand held blender to mash the pumpkin with the beans, olive oil and spring onion
- Form into a patty shape on a plate, using a cookie cutter as a mold
- Next, chop the kale very finely into little ribbons, wash well and let drip dry
- Put a scant amount of coconut oil in a pan, fry the shallot and garlic
- Add the kale and wilt it down, this will literally take half a minute. Remove from heat
- Once cooled, fold through the lemon zest and combine with the cooked quinoa
- Serve on the plate with the mash and sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of olive oil to finish
April 17, 2014
Iron, along with zinc, iodine, manganese, selenium, fluoride, copper and chromium (to list a few), is a trace mineral. Trace minerals are only needed in very tiny amounts in the body. So little in fact, that all of them together would hardly make up enough to fill a teaspoon, cool, right?! (1). That being said, iron has a big role to play, so it is extremely important that we get enough (but not too much) of it. Hopefully this will be a handy reference for those who get asked ‘so where do you get your iron from’.
Iron is actually quite abundant in plant-based sources. When you look at their nutrient density – their nutrient contribution per kilojoule, they often far outweigh their flesh alternatives. For example, raw English spinach has approximately 18 times more iron per kilojoule than minced beef.
Iron is essential to help us pick up, transport and release oxygen in the body, and is stored in the mucosal cells of the intestine. If we consume too much, these cells shed and get eliminated, and when our stores are low, they increase their absorption.
There are two types of dietary iron, haem and non-haem. Haem is found in the flesh of animals, while non-haem is derived from plants. Of the two, haem iron is generally said to be better absorbed than non-haem. Good plant-based sources of iron are found abundantly in a range of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Getting the most out of your plant-based iron
Vitamin C is a useful ally in helping absorb many nutrients, iron being one of them. Research has shown that non-haem iron is absorbed four times better if there are enough fruits and vegies to provide just 65mg of vitamin C (2). Try eating both at the same meal.
There are some dietary substances that have an affinity for iron and bind to it, making it insoluble – which now means it cannot be absorbed in the intestines. These substances include what we call anti-nutrients such as the phytic acid found in the hulls of whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Two other substances that block iron uptake are calcium (dairy products) and tannic acid (black teas).
A simple way to avoid anti-nutrients
If you can spare the time to properly prepare your whole grains, nuts and seeds, you will be able to increase the absorption of your iron. Soaking and sprouting will do this for you. Simply rinse your whole grains, nuts or seeds, then place in a glass bowl and cover with water, leave them to soak for an adequate time (overnight is ideal), then rinse and drain ready for use. You can take it a step further by going on to sprout them, which will amplify the nutritional bioavailability alongside neutralising the phytic acid.
Intake of vitamin C and minimising anti-nutrients is especially important for those of us with gastrointestinal diseases that can often make absorption of nutrients difficult.
How much do we need?
The recommended daily intake for men is 8mg, and for women 19-50, 18 milligrams.
Some great plant-powered iron sources:
Seaweeds such as dulse, kelp, wakame and hijiki are all excellent sources.
Includes spirulina and chlorella
Dark leafy greens
Parsley, kale, silverbeet, spinach, watercress
Black beans, broad beans, haricot beans, chick peas, lentils
Tempeh, tofu, soy beans, soy milk
Cornmeal, oats, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat
Dried Apricots, dates, sultanas, prunes, figs
Nuts and Seeds
Coconut flesh, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
1. Understanding Nutrition. 2nd Edition. Whitney, Rolfes, Crowe, Cameron-Smith, Walsh. 2014.
2. Conscious Eating, Gabriel Cousens, M.D. 2000.
The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 10th Edition, 2013, NutritionData.Self.com
April 4, 2014
Although I am a huge fan of raw treats when it’s time for an indulgence, this sugar free, grain free Banana Chocolate Bread is a great healthy basic. This is, of course, an entirely plant based recipe – yay! You’ll see apple sauce in the ingredient list – this is a common substitute for eggs in a recipe where you need a binder.
The sweetener used is Xylitol, which I don’t mind to use every now and then in small amounts. It is actually a plant based sweetener derived from the birch tree. It is often used in chewing gums as it has the benefit of inhibiting bacterial growth to prevent tooth decay. It is a sugar alcohol rather than a sugar, and has one less carbon than it’s sugar friends glucose and fructose. Having one less carbon is what gives it this antibacterial property.
Xylitol is a safe alternative for diabetics, as it has a very marginal effect on blood sugar levels. However, just because it is sugar free doesn’t mean it is free of calories – alcohol as you know contains calories so the sugar alcohols also contain a little (though far less than regular sugars). In excess, it will have a slight laxative effect or cause a bit of gas. You would have to consume about 50g in order to feel a bit off.
Sugar alcohols such as xylitol occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, as well as in our own bodies.
You can buy it as granules which look much like ordinary white sugar, or powdered, which looks just like icing sugar. Choose xylitol derived form Birch over Corn if you can.
Banana Chocolate Bread
Sugar Free • Grain Free • Vegan
1 cup almond meal
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup Xylitol icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar and dairy free chocolate chips
3 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
5 tablespoons apple sauce
2 tablespoons almond milk
- Sift the first six into a bowl
- Add the chocolate chips, use a whisk to mix them evenly through the dry ingredients
- Mash the bananas on a plate with the vanilla, then add the coconut oil, apple sauce and almond milk and mash again
- Add to the dry ingredients and mix till well combined
- Bake in a lined loaf pan at 180˚C for 45mins-1 hour or till a skewer comes out clean
- If it colours quickly, cover it with baking paper
- Dust with xylitol icing sugar and shredded coconut to serve.
April 2, 2014
An interview series designed to uncover what it is that real, wise women are made of – physically, mentally and spiritually.
I met today’s Wise Woman, Alice Nichols, about a year ago at a David Wolfe event. Such a beautiful lady, inside and out, as you will see as you read. Alice is Director of the award winning site The Whole Daily, and is a Life Coach specifically supporting women to live well, heal their body’s and love themselves. Alice learnt for herself how to transform that place of darkness and fear into pure love, and this is part of what she teaches. As you read, you will see how she wrestled with alcohol for many years before taking her power back through love. Alice also has a fantastic programme called The Life Transformation Project, a 4 week immersion into mindfulness, meditation, movement and diet, to support women in looking after themselves and remove emotional blocks in their lives. I highly recommed you check it out! So, please meet Alice…
Can you tell us about your personal special gift you have to share with the world?
I teach women how to live well, heal their body’s and love themselves. This encompasses a loving and ‘present’ mindset, a cleansing, anti-inflammatory lifestyle diet and a heap of support for dream catching. Women who work with me tell me they feel like I help them bust through a lot of blocks they have in life that get in the way of happiness and health and do so in a simple, loving and supportive manner.
How do you nourish your body?
I start by nourishing my mind. I truly believe that that which we feed our thoughts with effects what we feed our body with and then what we ultimately become. When I was younger I struggled with self-esteem. I put myself down and harboured negative thoughts, harsh comparisons and the belief that I was ‘owed’ by the Universe for coping through a tough childhood. I had an eating disorder, I struggled with alcohol abuse and a toxic relationship with my body as well as inviting some seriously shitty relationships into my life. Today I practice mindful thought over my consciousness, I look always to see either the positive in any event or for a lesson. I know that I am the guardian of each moment in my life. Because I love myself I choose foods that love me back. I don’t eat chemicals, and I follow an anti-inflammatory diet 98% of the time. No gluten, dairy, sugar or alcohol and few nightshades (capsicum, tomato’s eggplant, silver beet, spinach). There is a strong history of degenerative rheumatoid arthritis in my family and when I was drinking heavily and eating a lot of breads and pasta’s I used to have to lay on the floor to do my stiletto’s up. I was 26. Now I move much more freely, though as soon as I so much as have a slice of pizza or bread, that is me in the morning on the floor again. Food is really that powerful. I wish that we could all drop the junk to see just how much we can learn from what our bodies do tell us.
How do you feed your soul?
I go to the beach and throw my arms open wide. If I’m with my girls we do it together running wildly from one side of the beach to the other. I read a lot of books from people who are creating enlightenment within their own lives and seeing so much synchronicity with my own. I cook, or garden. I earth myself.
What has brought you to your knees?
Great question. I have had a 15 year struggle to try to moderate my alcohol consumption to no avail and too many times in my twenties I was literally in that position, on my knees, (why do we seem to do this on the bathroom floor girls?) crying or shaking with shame, guilt or fear at what I was doing to myself when it came to alcohol. Or wondering what I had done to myself, or those that I loved. I never broke down in front of anyone. I allowed this crippling black weight to grow as I vainly tried to ‘be like everyone else’ or feign happiness with my life. I looked to others to judge who I should be and I couldn’t figure out why I was so scarred, so weak, so ‘unable’. For anyone who is in this situation, and I know a lot are, there is a battle waged in the mind on a daily basis that consumes creativity, love, health and life in general and hold you back from being who you really are. There is only one road out of that.
What was it that pulled you back on your feet?
Love. For myself. Making love bigger than fear. If all decisions in life are made out of love or fear, and I believe they are, I made love bigger. I literally said to myself daily “I don’t drink because I love myself”. You could insert anything in there you like. It’s the showing up and consciously thinking it that makes it happen. Every single day.
What do you think the purpose of life is?
To Love. Simple. If we could all stop trying to make it so complicated and make decisions from this point onwards we would have world peace. It is that simple.
What has been your most humbling experience?
For 15 years I was so scared to share openly my battle with alcohol and my pain at not being able to control it. It wasn’t until I decided to just get it all out there and share my story for all to hear that I got resounding applause back. I’m not saying this to boast, I’m saying it because I was so frightened of this for so long and carried that weight, but on the other side of that fear was actually the most amazing freedom I have ever known. It leaves me open to receiving the best in my life and of course opens me to a truth I had been pushing down for so long. That everything you want is on the other side of fear.
How do you deal with stress?
I practice mindfulness daily, in as many situations as I have consciousness enough to do so. This is increasing the more I practice. When an event or situation occurs that would make me feel stressed I ask myself something. “What is the truth of the situation”. For example, when I was stuck behind a driver at a light and got stressed that I was running late and angry at being stuck I realised that the only truth in the situation was that I was in my car in that spot at that time. The feeling of stress, anger or frustration was actually my creation, not the truth. That means instead I chose to own ‘acceptance’, looked to the sky and saw clouds rolling past in the most amazing patterns (I then got beeped for being the di*khead stuck at the lights by the dude behind me…)
We need to be conscious enough to recognise what is real and what is not, or our own controllable creation before we can be truly happy in our lives. The energy that we put out into the world is what comes back to us in spades.
Favourite quote, mantra or affirmation?
This quote changed my life. I share it with all of my clients and in The Life Transformation Project we live this quote.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
What is one pearl of wisdom you can leave us with? When you’re stuck with anything at all -ask yourself , “What would love do”.
Do you have a recipe/remedy/words/art you would like to share?
Oh yes! These are my lemon and macadamia bars and I can’t make them fast enough for them to survive more than 2 minutes in my house. They’re flavoured with pure essential oil, some of which most people don’t realise they can also ingest and can be very calming and healing. I also use Lucuma powder which gives a delicious caramel flavour and is, of course, a super food.
Lemon and Macadamia Bars
1 cup macadamias
1/4 cups cashews
1 cup medjool dates (make sure there are no pits in your dates)
2 tbls lucuma Powder
6 drops (cold pressed) pure lemon oil
1 dssp tahini
Pinch of himalayan salt
2 tbls coconut oil
- Process macadamia’s + cashews until a course powder
- Add finely chopped dates and coconut oil + the rest of your ingredients and process until combined
- Press into a baking paper lined flat tray (I use a 20 x 20cm one) and place in the fridge to set slightly.
- Cut up and wrap for the kids or eat straight out of the tray.
…um….yum!!!! Thank you Alice! If you would like to keep in touch, you can find her here: