Health food help!

8:30 PM

This post is dedicated to 'decoding' some of the less common health foods that I use often. Still confused? I have included why to include them in your diet, how to use them and where to find them! 

RAW CACAO POWDER
Health benefits: Packed with antioxidants, calcium, protein, zinc and iron plus many more, raw cacao is one of the best food sources of muscle relaxing, stress relieving magnesium! It's high levels of magnesium also help to regulate your metabolism. Raw cacao has over 360% the antioxidants of regular cocoa. That's 14 times more potent antioxidants than red wine, 21 times more than green tea, and 7 times more than dark chocolate! Cacao also contains high levels of iron; infact 314% of the recommended daily intake per 28 gram serving according to David Wolfe's research. Just 3 teaspoons a day will give you approximately 63% of your recommended daily intake of iron! And the best thing? it tastes like chocolate... because it is chocolate!
How to use it: Add a tablespoon to your smoothie, or use it with a natural sweetener for a guilt free hot chocolate. I love it so much that I use it in almost every sweet recipe I make!
Where to find it: Raw Cacao is easy to find in health food stores as well as online. My favourites are by Power Super Foods and Loving Earth.


NUTRITIONAL YEAST
Health benefits: Nutritional Yeast is a great vegan/vegetarian source of vitamin B-12 for production of red blood cells and production/maintainance of myelin (protective insulation around your nerves). It is high in protein, fibre and folic acid and it's also gluten free!
How to use it: Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy flavour which means it works great in HEAPS of recipes. Add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast to your meals to get the benefits - I often add some to a bowl of soup. Oh, and it makes a mean vegan mac 'n cheese!
Where to find it: You will find a selection of nutritional yeasts at your local health food shop. I use Marigold Health Foods nutritional yeast.

MAPLE SYRUP
Health benefits: Maple syrup contains high levels of zinc, essential to regulating white blood cells and increasing resistance to sickness. It can boost your immune system and has anti-aging properties.
How to use it: Maple syrup is a great natural sweetener. Use it in baking to replace sugar or add it to a raw cacao hot chocolate. Just remember it is still almost all sugar, just the natural type!
Where to find it: You want to look for the 100% maple syrup. 'Maple flavoured syrup' IS NOT the same. You will find maple syrup at your local supermarket and health food store. My favourite is Macro Organic maple syrup.


DARK CHOCOLATE
Health benefits: I choose non dairy chocolates because I avoid dairy. Of course, dark chocolate itself has many benefits including high magnesium, antioxidants and deliciousness! ;)
How to use it: I use dark chocolate in cooking as well as just a great treat!
Where to find it: You'd be surprised how many off-the-shelf dark chocolates don't contain dairy! Green & Black's Dark Chocolate and Whittaker's dark almond are my favourite supermarket choices and my favourite health food shop selections are Pana Chocolate and Loving Earth. You can even make your own from raw cacao powder and raw cacao butter! Yummmm

GOJI BERRIES
Health benefits: Goji berries are the superfood known to be the fountain of youth. Native to China, goji berries have been eaten for generations in the hope of living longer. They are rich in nutrients, contain all essential amino acids and have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit. They are also packed with vitamin C, more carotenoids than any other food, 15 times the amount of iron found in spinach, as well as calcium, zinc and many other importance minerals. It's no surprise that the humble goji berry has been used to treat many common health problems like diabetes, fever and age related eye problems. The goji berry is a nutritional powerhouse!
How to use it: Goji berries are eaten raw, cooked and dried. They can also be used in herbal teas, juices and wines. I eat them as a snack or sprinkle a few on top of smoothies and desserts. They can also be used in almost any situation where I use dried apricots to make raw dessert bases.
Where to find it: Goji berries are becoming more popular (you'd think so considering their benefits!) and can now be found in the health section of the supermarket, at health food stores or online. Look for these: Morlife dried goji berries and Fruit for LIfe 'inca berries'.



QUINOA
Health benefits: The superfood discovered by the Incas thousands of years ago, quinoa was known for it's health benefits and it was believed to increase the stamina of the Incan warriors. Quinoa is high in protein, and has almost double the fibre of any other grain. It also contains iron, lysine, magnesium, vitamin B-2 and magnese. With loads of slow release fibre, quinoa helps you to feel fuller for longer with more efficient energy usage. For this reason, quinoa has become known for helping people to loose weight and is gluten free, making it perfect for gluten free recipes!
How to use it: Quinoa can be consumed cooked in salads, loafs, porridges... Almost anything imaginable! You can also buy quinoa flour for normal baking. I love using cooked whole quinoa in my veggie patties for some added protein and superfood goodness! Or try out my 'quinoa and rice salad.'
Where to find it: Like goji berries, quinoa has become popular in the western countries in recent years, making it much easier to find. You will find many different types of quinoa in the health isle of your local supermarket, so it just depends on what you want to make! Whole quinoa is cooked similar to rice and quinoa flakes similar to oats or porridge. Macro Organic have a good variety of different types of quinoa.



CHIA SEEDS
Health benefits: Native to South America, chia seeds are known for their ability to provide sustainable energy. Infact, chia is the Mayan word for 'strength!' They deliver a large amount of nutrition with only few calories, almost all of which are fibre. Chia seeds are a great source of many antioxidants, protein, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. Chia has a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels and also contains high amounts of omega-3 for a healthy brain.
How to use it: Chia seeds have more recently been made popular for making chia seed puddings. They can also be used blended into smoothies or cooked and added to many meals.
Where to find it: You will find chia seeds in the health section of your supermarket or at health food stores. Some supermarkets even sell healthy premade chia puddings and snack bars! I like Macro Organic chia seeds and Chia Pod cups.

AGAVE SYRUP
Health benefits: Agave syrup is an unprocessed natural sweetener which comes from a slow growing succulent plant, used first by the Native Americans. Agave plants flower only once before they die, but produce many shoots. Their flowers and leaves are edible but the sap filled stalk is the part we get agave syrup from. Health benefits include anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties as well as fructins such as insuline which help to increase absorption of nutrients into the body. Agave syrup is also a natural antibacterial and was used by the Mayans to help heal wounds.
How to use it: I use agave syrup similarly to maple syrup; it is a natural sweetener and a great alternative to sugar.
Where to find it: You will find agave syrup at the supermarket or health food store. I mostly use Loving Earth Organics agave syrup.


COCONUT MILK
Health benefits: Coconut milk comes from the flesh of a coconut. Creating coconut milk involves some processing; the flesh is finely grated and steeped in hot water before being strained through cheesecloth. The liquid left behind is coconut milk and this process can be repeated several times depending on the desired consistency. While coconut milk is high in saturated fats, it is a much healthier fat which is easily metabolised but the body. The main saturated fat it contains, lauric acid, can also be found in a mother's milk, and encourages healthy brain development and bone health. Lauric acid also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, helping to boost the immune system. Coconut milk also contains many antioxidants and can improve digestive health.
How to use it: There are many uses for coconut milk that don't just include use in cooking! Coconut milk is great for moisturising hair and gently exfoliating and hydrating skin. I use it as an alternative to dairy milk in cooking and smoothies as well as in traditional asian foods. My favourite thing to make is raspberry and coconut muffins or coconut porridge! Yummm
Where to find it: Coconut milk can be bought in cans and vary in quality. A good quality coconut milk will normally have a layer of thicker coconut cream on top and the thinner milk on the bottom. Read a comparison of canned coconut milks here. You will find it in the same area of the supermarket as Asian food. (Note: here you will also find coconut cream which can be refrigerated until solid and whipped as an alternative to dairy cream.) Look for coconut milk with no added nasties and test out the different types until you find your favourite. Or... make your own raw from scratch!



[Photo credits: FORTIS FOODSEDIBLE BUFFALOVEGIEGIRL88PERU DELIGHTSDOOGINTHE MINDFUL FOODIE]

If you'd like to know more about any of the health foods I use, let me know in the comments below and I'll add them to the list!


xx Courtney




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