Tag Archives: superfood

Coconut chia pudding with cherries

Cherry Coconut Chia Pudding (dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

Cherries are currently in season in Europe and I get a little over-enthusiastic about them every year. Growing up in South Africa in the 80’s and 90’s, only glace cherries were available. Once I moved to Europe and experienced fresh cherries for the first time I was hooked!

Cherries are as versatile as they are delicious – their sweet, but complex flavour lends them to all types of dishes, sweet and savoury. And, of course, they are full of goodness, bursting with nutrients!

Broadly, there are two types of cherries: sweet and sour. It’s the sweet ones we see on our supermarket shelves and the sour ones tend to be used for juices etc. Both are full of nutrients, however the sour cherries, appear to have a slightly higher concentration of vitamin C and some phytochemicals.

Three Cheers for Cherries

These vibrant berries are well known for their vitamin C and fibre content, but the real potent, health-giving properties appear to come from their rich abundance of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Think of how lemon juice prevents apples from going brown – that’s the antioxidant in the lemon juice preventing the air from oxidising the apple flesh. We need the same process to happen in our bodies, so it is important to eat foods rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants are measured by their ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – the higher the better. 1 cup of sweet cherries has a score of 4,873 while a medium banana has a score of 650. You can read more about oxidation and antioxidants in this post.

Cherries are full of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with strong antioxidant potential. Flavonoids are being researched in relation to numerous health conditions, including cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, in laboratory studies, ‘anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction, without affecting healthy cells. These compounds also show anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant effects1.

When it comes to cherries in particular, studies have shown that they can be helpful for three common ailments:

  1. Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the joints. It can be painful and debilitating, and affects around 400,000 people in the UK. Cherries appear to help symptoms of arthritis due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the anthocyanins.
  2. Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. This can result extremely painful inflammatory arthritis if the uric acid crystallises in joints. Joints of the foot, knee, hand and wrist – especially the big toe are most affected. Studies have shown that cherries can lower uric acid in the bloodstream and could reduce gout attacks by 35%.
  3. Insomnia: Insomnia needs no introduction – most people have experienced it at some point, and some suffer from chronic inability to get a good night’s sleep. The hormone melatonin regulates our circadian rhythm, allowing for a restful sleep. However, things like bright lights, poor diet, jet lag and device screens can interfere with melatonin balance. Cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, so including them in your diet may help improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

C4: Cherries, Coconut, Chia and Cocoa

This recipe features four powerful foods, each providing nourishment for your body: cherries, coconut, chia and cocoa.

You now know all about cherries and you can read more about chia in this post. Chia seeds form the basis of this dish and the dairy-free coconut milk binds all the lovely flavours together in a creamy ‘mousse’. You can substitute the coconut milk for almond milk or water if you like, but I recommend the coconut milk for its good fats and the level of satiety it brings to a breakfast dish.

Cocoa is a great source of iron and magnesium as well as the powerful flavanol antioxidant. Everyone knows that cherries and chocolate are best friends, however, the chocolate is optional in this recipe. If you want a fruitier flavour, feel free to leave out the cocoa powder.

Chia pudding with cherries and coconut

Pudding for Breakfast   

So, if you are looking for fresh breakfast ideas, then this is one to try. If you’ve never tasted chia pudding before, then expect something between that is rice pudding and chocolate mousse in texture. I like to grind the chia seeds for a smoother pudding, but some do prefer the texture of the whole seeds (more rice pudding than mousse!).

I also think that it’s important to try and get a bit of crunch into the final product. I use fresh shaved coconut and fresh fruit, but dessicated coconut, nuts and/or seeds will do.

The good news is that you can make this pudding with other berries too (try blueberry or raspberry). If cherries are out of season, 30-40ml of CherryActive* concentrate will give you the cherry flavour with most of the nutritional benefits. You should be able to pick it up at your local health store in the UK and ROI and, I believe, they do have stockists in South Africa, Australia and parts of Asia.

 

CHERRY COCONUT CHIA (CHOCOLATE) PUDDING

Serves 2 for breakfast and 3-4 for dessert/snack

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole fresh cherries (or 30-40ml cherry juice concentrate)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (optional)

For serving:

  • Fresh cherries
  • Shaved fresh coconut, toasted

Method

  1. Put the chia seeds into a coffee/spice grinder and grind into a powder. This step is optional – you can use whole chia seeds.
  2. Remove the stalks and stones from the cherries and place into a liquidiser or food processor with the other ingredients. Blend until combined. You can also use a hand-held stick blender.
  3. Scrape the mixture into a container or individual bowls/glasses, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container for a breakfast or snack on the go.
  4. Serve with fresh cherries and toasted coconut shavings (or anything else that gives it a crunch: toasted and chopped nuts, muesli or seeds).

Cherry and chia pudding to go

*This post is not sponsored by CherryActive, nor am I affiliated with them. I have personally tried and tested the product and I think that it is a viable alternative if fresh cherries aren’t available.

 

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Heart healthy beetroot hummus

Beetroot Hummus (and why you need to eat it)

Escalate hummus to a vibrant, earthy treat with the addition of beautiful beetroot.

Hummus is one of my all-time favourite foods. It is a simple Middle Eastern staple that is both delicious and super-nutritious at the same time. A winning combination!

Made from chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini (sesame seed paste), hummus (or houmous), has become increasingly popular in the last decade with tubs available at most supermarkets, corner shops and delis.

The good stuff

Besides being absolutely delicious, hummus is a popular ‘go-to’ food for nutritionists.

Here are five reasons why hummus should be a fridge staple.

    1. Hummus is high in fibre. Chickpeas are an excellent source of dietary fibre. Most western diets do not include good levels of fibre which is necessary to keep your cholesterol in check, balance your blood sugar levels and keep your hormones in harmony.
    2. Hummus is high in protein. Chickpeas are rich in the amino acids lycine, isoleucine and tryptophan. This makes hummus an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Amino acids are the building blocks of our cells, so it is important to include a variety of sources in our diets.
    3. Hummus keeps your blood sugar balanced. In order to avoid peaks and troughs in your blood sugar levels, I always recommend that snacks should contain an element of fibre, protein or fat (as these slow down the release of sugar into your blood stream). Swapping sugary snacks for wholesome alternatives like hummus will help you maintain your energy levels and help you manage sugar cravings.
    4. Hummus is rich in phytonutrients. Garlic, chickpeas and the sesames in tahini are a holy trinity of superfoods. Your heart and liver will be jumping for joy. Garlic’s medicinal benefits have been recognised for decades. Its compounds have been shown to decrease the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, help with inflammation and enhance the immune system. Sesame seeds and chickpeas are rich in a group of phytonutrients called lignans.  Lignans have mild oestrogenic properties, which is why lignan-containing foods are recommended for women moving into menopause or for those with hormonal imbalances. Lignans have also been associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
    5. Hummus is convenient. Hummus is portable, so makes a great snack on the go. A tub in the workplace fridge will last a few days and, paired with an oatcake, carrot sticks or some rye bread will provide a quick, easy, filling snack.

Homemade beetroot hummus

Beetroot Boost

This version of hummus incorporates the marvellous superfood beetroot. Its vivid colour is a tell-tale sign that this vegetable is packed full of health-promoting nutrients.

Besides gifting this hummus dip with its awesome colour, beetroot also lends a slightly earthy taste to the recipe, as well as additional fibre and antioxidants.

Studies have shown that beetroot may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, the prominent phytonutrient in beetroot, betaine, protects cells and enzymes from environmental stress and fights inflammation. Beetroot also supports Phase 2 liver detoxification.

So, while hummus is excellent in its traditional form, adding beetroot takes it to another level.

Enjoy this delicious dip with a virtuous smile on your face. It is also a great way to get children’s lunchboxes healthy and bright.

The ultimate healthy snack

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 250g cooked beetroot (about 2 medium beetroot), peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 250ml water (approx.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Put the chickpeas, beetroot, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and half the water into a food processor and blend, scraping down the sides with a spatula a few times.
  2. Continue blending and slowly add the rest of the water until you have the consistency you desire – you may need to add a bit more.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and give it a final whizz.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Serve as a snack with oatcakes or vegetable batons, on rye toast for breakfast or lunch with avocado and pumpkin seeds or inside a pita with salads. This beetroot hummus pairs well with horseradish, mint and halloumi (not necessarily all together!).

 

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Broccoli and Fennel Soup with Almonds (vegan, gluten free)

Creamy broccoli and fennel soup

This soup was thrown together in an attempt to use up a glut of vegetables in the fridge.

I had bought some fennel on a whim in the week, so I knew I needed to use it. I wanted something warm and hearty, so a soup seemed like a good idea. I wanted an element of protein, but didn’t feel like adding legumes – so almonds came to the rescue. I was going to call this soup ‘The Kitchen Sink’, but after tasting it, I thought that would do it a disservice.

It tasted good, so it’s made it onto the blog. Also, the more I looked at the ingredients, the more I realised that together the ingredients are a brilliant tonic for a number of ailments. This is the soup you want to make if you are feeling a little under the weather (great immune boosting qualities), but would be equally good for ladies who need to balance their hormones. Here’s why.

Fresh fennel bulb

Fennel

If you’ve eaten fennel before, you’ll know that the stylish white bulb with feathery leaves has a subtle aniseed-y flavour that adds both depth and freshness, depending on how it’s cooked.

Medicinally, fennel’s properties are widely known. Fennel has been used for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation and increasing libido – these possibly linked to the subtle oestrogenic effect of some of its constituents. But it is as a carminative where fennel is particularly effective. It’s been used for centuries to soothe gas and bloating in both adults and infants.

Fennel has also been shown to be effective for respiratory problems – so there’s no harm in getting in a good dose if you’re fighting off a chesty cold.

Nutritionally, fennel bulb is a great source of fibre, vitamin C and folate.

Broccoli

One of my favourite friends. Broccoli has so many excellent nutritional properties, I could write a whole blog post on it alone. In the interests of brevity and to stay on topic, I’ll summarise as follows:

    • 100g provides almost double the amount of vitamin C than an orange
    • Broccoli contains glucobrassicin, which is broken down to indole-3-caribinole (I3C). I3C improves oestrogen metabolism and is particularly effective on ‘bad’ oestrogen (16-alpha-hydroxysestrone). I3C also seems to have antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus (the one that gives you cold sores).
    • Broccoli is a sulphurous vegetable. This means that it provide excellent support to the liver
    • There are a good number of studies showing convincing anti-cancer properties of broccoli
    • Broccoli is very high in antioxidants
    • Broccoli contains sulfophane, which is anti-inflammatory

The support team

Onion, ginger and garlic are well known for fighting colds. They have excellent anti-microbial properties and provide your body with extra immune-boosting compounds. Onions and garlic are also great for your liver, so therefore good news for hormone metabolism.

Coconut oil, also has anti-microbial properties, so definitely use this if you’re under the weather.

Now, don’t let the thought of almonds in a soup put you off. The almonds provide a wonderful creamy texture without a particularly nutty taste. If you are struggling with a chesty cold, dairy can sometimes aggravate symptoms, so almonds are a brilliant alternative to a dairy creamer in your soup or stew. They also provide a good amount of protein and fibre to this dish to ensure that it keeps you fuller for longer. It is better to soak the almonds before using them in the soup, so remember to prepare them at least an hour before you start cooking – you could really soak them all day.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
  • 1 litre stock (vegetable or organic chicken)
  • 1 medium head broccoli, in florets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup whole raw almonds, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Heat a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, fennel and ginger in the oil until soft
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  3. Lower the soup to a simmer and add the broccoli and garlic. Simmer until the broccoli is just cooked and remove from the heat.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the almonds and place them in a liquidiser with ½ cup of the soup broth. Blend until the nuts break down.
  5. Add the rest of the soup to the liquidiser jug and blend until smooth. The soup may still be quite hot, so blend in short spurts and open the lid after every blitz to allow steam to escape. Hold the lid of the liquidiser down with a tea towel to protect your hand. You could also use a stick blender for this step.
  6. Return the lovely creamy soup to the saucepan and test the seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste.
  7. Serve in warmed bowls with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

 

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Bircher muesli - to go

Bling Your Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Muesli is one of those foods vastly misunderstood. Often promoted as a healthy breakfast, commercial varieties can be full of sugar and, worse, many contain trans fats. However, if made right, and eaten in moderation, muesli is absolutely a healthful food. It is also one of those dishes which acts as a vessel for many other ingredients that can provide a super-boost of nutrients for the day.

Oats are the base of all mueslis and there are generally two types: those that are roasted to a crispy crunch and the soaked kind. This recipe is all about the soaking and the method is generally described as Bircher muesli (after the Swiss naturopath who popularised the dish in his clinic).

A Quick Fix

There are plenty of nutritional advantages to Bircher muesli, but one of the main advantages is its ease. Yes, many cereals are easy, but they won’t have a touch on the nutritional value that Bircher muesli provides.

This makes it a brilliant dish for those of you who, for convenience, either skip breakfast or opt for no-cook mug varieties (not good, please switch to this recipe!).

There are many ways to prepare Bircher muesli, but what they all have in common is soaking the grains. What this means is that you can prepare breakfast the night before and lob it into your handbag (or briefcase) on your way to work. Soaking oats overnight also allows them to become lovely and creamy, without the need for dairy. Because the mixture keeps well in the fridge, you can soak a batch and scoop out what you need on a daily basis.

Soak Your Oats

Oats are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals, however, they also contain phytic acid which can combine with nutrients like magnesium, iron and zinc and block their absorption.

That’s why a diet high in unfermented whole grains can contribute to deficiencies and soft bones.

Soaking oats neutralises the effect of phytic acid, so be sure to sit your oats in water for at least 30 minutes before making porridge. I recommend an overnight soak though. It means that you can have a delicious and nutritious breakfast without too much hassle in the morning.

The Good Stuff (pay attention if you’re managing your cholesterol)

Oats are full of B vitamins (particularly B3, B5 and folate), essential for energy production and overall healthfulness. ½ a cup will also provide you with 20% of your zinc and iron RDA and 35% of your magnesium RDA (if you absorb them – hence the soaking).

Oats are also cholesterol busters. A number of studies have demonstrated that individuals with high cholesterol levels experience significant reductions with frequent oatmeal consumption.

“In individuals with high cholesterol levels (above 200mg/dl), the daily consumption of the equivalent of 3g soluble oat fibre typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant, as with each 1% drop in serum cholesterol level, there is a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease1.”

So – oats are a nutrient powerhouse and help manage cholesterol – what a win. But wait, there’s more…

Oats are a fabulous source of prebiotic fibes. These feed the beneficial bacteria in our guts and keeps our digestive system healthy (which in turn keeps the rest of us healthy!).

Because all balanced meals should have an element of protein, this recipe contains ground almonds and ground seeds. Besides donating their protein content to the meal, they also provide excellent levels of vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids (also excellent for heart health).

So, get soaking.

Healthy Bircher Muesli

 

Ingredients

1 Serving:

  • 1/2 cup oats (or gluten free if required*)
  • 1 dessertspoon ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax and pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon raisins

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and add enough filtered water to just cover. Cover well, and leave overnight in the fridge.
  2. Add your optional ‘sprinkles’ before serving: grated apples or berries, some more coconut and seeds – I like a bit of crunchy texture. In winter, you can add a splash of boiling water and stir through for a warmer dish.

The mixture can keep in the fridge for up to a week, so try making in bulk for a quick, nutritious breakfast.

 

*There’s no consensus on whether or not oats are gluten free. One of the arguments is that the grain is naturally gluten-free, but ends up being contaminated during processing. Some people with gluten sensitivity manage just fine on regular oats, but if you are a coeliac, you absolutely must go for certified gluten-free oats. They are a bit more expensive, but your long-term health is worth it.

 

1 Murray and Pizzorno, The Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine 3rd Ed. p683-684

 

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Chia 1

Something to Chia about?

The word ‘superfood’ gets bandied about fairly easily and usually heralds the entrance of an obscure food substance from a remote part of the world that we now must eat to be healthy! I have always been a bit adverse to this way of approaching healthy eating.

For starters, I firmly believe that a healthy diet is one that includes a variety of fresh products, ideally as close to locally sourced as possible. The fact of the matter is, a lot of the in-vogue ‘superfoods’ touted by the media  don’t actually offer anything superior to the foods we have access to on a daily basis.

Chia 1

Whole organic chia seeds

So, given the above, why am I writing about chia seeds? Well, my initial reluctance to use them stemmed from the fact that they are grown and shipped in from South America. That’s a lot of food miles and I wasn’t sure that more local products couldn’t provide the same nutritional benefits that these little black seeds could. However, over the last 6 months, I’ve looking into chia a little more closely.  Yes, the seeds are flown a long way and yes, for the most part you can get the same balance of nutrients from other food sources. But what chia provides is a super-boost of nutrients that very few foods contain in one package. Here are the facts about chia seeds:

  1. Chia seeds offer a complete source of protein. That means they have all essential amino acids – very few plant sources can boast the full amino acid spectrum. This makes chia a very good source of protein for vegans, vegetarians and those looking to lower their reliance on meat and dairy products.
  2. They are an amazing source of calcium. Just 28g of chia seeds will give you 18% of your RDA. They are also excellent source of zinc, phosphorus and manganese.
  3. Chia seeds are full of fibre. Again, just 28g will give you 42% of your daily fibre needs! Fibre is brilliant for regulating blood sugar levels, detoxifying the system and keeping your heart healthy.
  4. They provide over five times more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon. Another win for vegetarians and vegans! These tiny little seeds are an omega 3 powerhouse. Omega 3 is a vital nutrient often missing from modern diets, but is essential for good hormone regulation, brain development and is highly anti-inflammatory.
  5. Chia seeds are versatile. I have used them in a number of recipes to great success – breads, smoothies, porridge, muesli and cookies. For vegans or those allergic to eggs, ground chia seeds can also be soaked with water and used as an egg substitute for baking.

So, you can see why I’ve been converted to a chia champion! I find that chia seeds are a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. If you haven’t tried chia seeds before, here is something I whipped up this morning that can get you started.

Refreshing Chia Berry Boost Smoothie (makes 2 large smoothies)Chia Berry Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon organic oat flakes
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 cup nut milk (or coconut water or filtered water)
  • 1.5 cups frozen berries
  • 6-7 mint leaves, roughly torn
  • 2 big handfuls baby spinach

 

Method:

  1. Mix the chia seeds and oats in a bowl with the cup of water. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Once the chia seeds and oats are soaked (and the chia seeds have swollen), add all the ingredients into the blender (spinach leaves first) and blend until smooth.

This smoothie provides an awesome nutrient boost – a great way to start the day or a recovery smoothie after exercising. The mix of ingredients gives a vitamin, mineral, fibre and antioxidant boost that is delicious and refreshing. Enjoy!

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