Experiments with cacao

CacaoIf you love chocolate, it’s worthwhile starting to include cacao powder in your daily diet. Unlike chocolate, raw cacao is naturally fermented, unprocessed and free of sugar, milk and other additives. This concentrates the true chocolate and coffee flavour compounds, allowing for a deeper taste experience, writes Dr Susan Aldridge,  Healthy Soul’s  guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Cacao contains over 700 different phytochemicals. Some of these have powerful antioxidant properties; cacao compares favourably with dark chocolate, green tea and blueberries as a source of antioxidants. It is also rich in magnesium. Research suggests that cacao might help prevent blood clots, improve cognitive function and insulin resistance and lower blood pressure.

These recipes use an organic cacao powder that is pressed from raw cacao beans, and has no additives.

Cacao smoothie

A luxurious, tasty and nutritious drink
Serves one
One punnet of strawberries
250mul almond milk
One tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cacao powder
Blend everything in a Nutribullet or similar device and drink immediately.

Vegetarian chilli

I replaced the mince with a packet of quinoa with seeds (many other varieties of packet quinoa available!)

Serves 2–3 (reheats well and great for a summer party if you scale up)
Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Two chopped red chillis
One red onion, chopped
One yellow Romano pepper, chopped
One red Romano pepper, chopped
400g tin tomatoes
400g tin mixed beans
Two tbsp. tomato puree
250g pack quinoa, ready cooked
One tbsp. raw cacao powder
Fry the onion, peppers, garlic, chilli and cacao powder in olive oil till the vegetables are soft. Then add the tomatoes, beans, tomato puree and quinoa. Cook for 15–20 minutes.
Serve with grated cheese/sour cream/finely chopped chillis/sliced avocado. Drizzle with chilli oil if you like it hot.

Cacao peach melba

A healthy take on this classic dessert.
Serves two
250g of the thickest, most luxurious yoghurt you can find
Two tsp raw organic cacao powder
Two peaches, sliced
Handful of raspberries
Stir the cacao powder into the yoghurt and divide between two dessert glasses. Top with the sliced peaches and raspberries and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Next month. Experiments with fermented foods

Hay fever top tips

grass kidsYou’ve started sneezing, your eyes are sore, and you know that this year’s hay fever has started. Read our top tips from Alison Cullen of A. Vogel.

And read Prevent hay fever.

1. Caffeine triggers histamine release which can bring the skin up in a red, itchy, angry looking rash and dilate your blood vessels until everything feels inflamed – try green tea or herbal teas instead.

2. Dairy products are mucus forming. People prone to allergic reactions often struggle with dairy, so check out dairy-free options like goat’s milk, soya milk, almond milk, rice milk, for a start.

3. Refined sugar triggers a dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar levels, which causes an adrenalin surge that activates histamine release. Choose sweet dried or fresh fruit for a natural sugar fix instead, or stevia which is a natural sugar substitute.

4. Vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine – fresh fruit and vegetables ensure a steady intake throughout the day. Your body can’t make or store vitamin C, so it has to be available in low, consistent doses to support your nasal lining.

5. Eat anti-inflammatory foods including blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, blackcurrants, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, mangoes, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapples, prunes, plums, raisins, figs, avocadoes, herring, pilchards, sardines, salmon, pumpkinseed oil and flaxseed oil to help counter inflammation.

6. Dry clothes indoors as damp clothes on the washing line will collect pollen.

7. Undress in the bathroom not the bedroom so the pollen from clothes doesn’t float around the bedroom.

8. Spread Vaseline around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollen. Reapply each time you blow your nose.

9. Keep an eye on the pollen count using the free A.Vogel hayfever app at www.avogel.co.uk so you know when levels are high. It uses GPS to find your location and shows forecast levels for trees, grass and weed pollen.

10. Stock up on A.Vogel Pollinosan tablets (see below), a natural remedy containing seven tropical herbs that work on all the symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis, without the drowsy side effects associated with some medicine. For best results, it can be taken a month before your symptoms usually start.

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Luffa Tincture A. Vogel (Bioforce) 50ml £10.95
Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray A. Vogel (Bioforce) 20ml £9.74
HayMax Aloe Vera Balm HayMax 5ml £9.62
HayMax Kids Barrier Balm HayMax 5ml £9.62
Euphrasia 30c Weleda 120 tablets £9.0i4
Nux vomica 30C Ainsworth’s 120 tablets £7.58
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Quercetin Plus with Quercetin, Bromelain, Nettle, Vitamin C Biocare 90 capsules £19.95
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Experiments with pineapple

PineappleWhen I heard that sales of pineapple are booming in the UK, with one buyer claiming that it might start to rival avocado in popularity, I just had to put together a pineapple blog to follow on from last month’s avocado blog, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I’ve got bad memories of pineapple from the 1960s. Tinned pineapple chunks, soggy pineapple rings with evaporated milk and pineapple and cheese cubes on cocktail sticks. Time for a re-think, because pineapples are rich in vitamin C (one serving supplies more than your daily recommended intake), potassium and the enzyme bromelain, which can reduce inflammation. One word of caution though – a serving of pineapple contains 16g sugar (compared with raspberries, which contain 5g sugar per serving). So, rather than eat it on its own, try the three recipes below where the sweetness is balanced by lots of other healthy ingredients.

Green pineapple juice
Serves one

The addition of pineapple lifts this classic green juice.

One cucumber, roughly chopped
Three sticks of celery, halved
Two handfuls of spinach leaves
Half a pineapple, sliced
One inch peeled ginger, chopped
Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Crunchy salad
Serves two

Three types of green leaves – I used a bag of pea shoots, two baby gem lettuce and a bag of watercress

50g pomegranate seeds
100g pineapple, cut into small chunks
Handful of mixed seeds (linseed, pumpkin and sunflower)
One sliced avocado
Toss all ingredients in a dressing of flaxseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon. To make more of a main meal of this salad, add an extra avocado and some prawns.

Fruity curry
Serves two to three

Two onions, chopped
One inch grated ginger
Two Tbsp curry paste
100g oily toor dhal (or red lentils or similar pulse)
400g coconut milk
400g tin tomatoes
400g mushrooms, sliced
100g frozen peas
one-quarter pineapple, chopped
half mango, chopped

Fry the onion and ginger in coconut oil till soft and add the curry paste and dhal. Stir and add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the mushrooms and peas. Stir for a few minutes, then add the pineapple and mango and heat through.
Next month – experiments with cacao

Experiments with avocado

avocadoAvocado is used increasingly to make dishes vegan – instead of butter on toast and in main course salads instead of ham or chicken. But avocado is far more than an animal product substitute, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition..

The fruit of the Persea Americana tree is rich in vitamins, including vitamin E, and contains more potassium than a banana.  It has a glycaemic index of zero and contains more fat than any other fruit. This is ‘heart healthy’ monounsaturated fat – specifically, oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil. Here are three easy ways to include more avocados in your diet.

Avocado green smoothie

This is a lovely, creamy drink which is rather like a super-healthy chocolate milk shake.

Serves one
50g Spinach
One avocado, peeled, stoned and sliced
Cacao
50g strawberries
50g raspberries
300ml hemp, almond or coconut milk (or a mixture)
Blend all the ingrdients in a Nutribullet or similar device. Drink immediately.
Avocado on toast

This is my version of avocado on toast, where I replace the traditional poached egg with a version of the classic Italian dish insalata tricolore, which combines avocado with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Serves one as a light main, or make double quantities/add salad for a main for two. You could also cut this into smaller pieces for a party canape dish.

Thick slice of interesting bread (I used walnut, but you could use olive or sourdough), toasted
One sliced avocado
Sundried tomatoes
Soft cheese (I used Cornish brie, but mozzarella or feta would also work well)
Chopped mint/basil/microgreens to finish.

Layer the avocado, tomatoes and cheese on the toast and heat under the grill until the cheese has melted. Finish with the herbs/microgreens.

Avocado hummus

This spread is packed with healthy fats from the avocado and the oils.

Makes around four servings

Tub of hummus (suggest going for an ‘artisan’ or home-made version with extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, rather than standard supermarket product)
One avocado, peeled and sliced
One tbsp. flax seed oil (I used the chilli-steeped version, but the plain version is just as good)
Juice of one lemon

Blitz all ingredients in a Nutribullet or food processor. Serve with crudites and/or pitta bread. Keeps for a day or two in the fridge.
Next month: Experiments with pineapple

Natural beauty

 

Some shocking facts about cosmetics

Do you ever think about what you put on your face every day as you do your make up?  And do you expect them to be tested on animals?  Here are a few facts:

• Everything you put on your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream.
• Many cosmetics contain chemicals that can have harmful side-effects.
• One ingredient, ‘Parfum’ is a very vague term but often consists of several chemicals that can accumulate in body tissue.
• Ninety-three per cent of women use lipstick BUT in their lifetimes they consume about 2lb of it through their mouths.
• Lipstick colouring is often made from cochineal – crushed beetle-like insects.

  • A long list of the best known cosmetics manufacturers still test their products on animals. 

If we used these cosmetics occasionally they wouldn’t cause many problems but the cumulative use of them over years of our lives means that the chemicals are embedded in our bodies and may be weakening our defence systems.

The cumulative effect of many of these chemicals can cause premature ageing, disruption to hormones, allergic reactions, birth defects in babies and serious skin conditions and illnesses.

What are the chemicals?

 Parfum
Musk
Phtalates
Parabens

Healthy  Soul recommends:  LoveLula_Logo_High_Res_gif

 
Heaven Age Defiance Cream, 50ml, £55
Barefoot Botanicals Hourglass Lifting & Firming Body Lotion, £27.95
Barefoot Botanicals SOS Foot Soldier Refreshing Foot Balm, 75ml, £13.95
Lavera Cleansing Milk 2 in 1, 125ml, £6.45
Lavera Hand Cream, Rose Garden, 75ml, £5.75
Faith in Nature Aloe Vera Shampoo, 400ml, £4.59
Faith in Nature Aloe Vera Conditioner, 400ml, £4.59
Dr Hauschka Volume Mascara, £19.95
Bellapierre Eyeliner Trio, £29.99
Dr Hauschka Lip Gloss, £14.95
Alva Fluid Foundation, £18.85
Spirit of Beauty, Dancing Orchid, Sun Orchid and Bird of Paradise Facial Spritz, made with essential oils, 100ml,  £17.95