Carob: A great sugar alternative! (when life isn’t sweet enough)

One of the many challenges of staving off Candida is finding healthy alternatives to sugar, including, chocolate. Sugar in general is bad for your health. It contributes to:

According to Rheumatic.org , here are the top 10 reasons why you should be avoiding sugar, mainly, refined sugar:

  1. Sugar can suppress the immune system.
  2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in the body.
  3. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
  4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
  5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases).
  6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, the more sugar you eat the more elasticity and function you lose.
  7. Sugar reduces high density lipoproteins.
  8. Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
  9. Sugar leads to cancer of the ovaries.
  10. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose.

 

Pretty scary stuff.

 

Regarding Candida, sugar causes yeast in your intestine and gut to grow and multiply. So I avoid that sucker at all costs.

I’ve discover healthy alternatives to sugar and to add a little treat to my diet such as organic honey, agave, unsweetened shredded coconut, dates, raisins, and recently, carob and carob powder.

I found some really good info on the Bulk Barn website:

  • Unlike chocolate, it’s not full of fat, butter and sugar.
  • Naturally caffeine free
  • A natural source of sugar: can serve as a replacement for baking (such as bread, waffles, cakes, pies, muffins, etc)
  • Can be enjoyed by those who are allergic to or have chocolate sensitivities
  • Naturally sweet, high in carbs and very low in fat content

One easy way to incorporate carob into your diet is by adding a teaspoon or two into your smoothies.

Here’s an easy smoothie recipe that I like to make, nearly every day:

  • Frozen or fresh strawberries
  • Frozen mangoes
  • Coconut water
  • No sugar added soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons of carob powder
  • 1 tablespoon of protein powder* (optional)

*Because of wheat and sugar sensitivities, I opt for a whey protein isolate, called Inbalance (http://www.inbalancenutrition.ca/ ).

Question:

  • Do you face any dietary challenges?
  • How do you overcome them?

Challenge:

  • Is there an ingredient in your diet that you could substitute for a more healthy alternative?
  • If so, what is it?
  • Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference!

Enjoy!

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Detox: Day 5 and (starting) to feel more alive!

Well…it’s day five of the detox and I have to say that it felt nice to have a lot more energy on a Saturday. This winter, I really dragged my feet and spent a lot of time in front of the TV. Not good. No wonder those pounds crept on me. Anyways, I’m getting back on track with eating better and today, for the second day in a row, I went for a run. I know – craziness! But I’m determined to get into shape especially since I’ll be going to Florida at the end of March and I’ll probably be wearing a bathing suit for more than half the time (if all goes to plan, anyways).

My biggest downfall is that I get really super excited about something, jump in head first and bite off more than I can chew only to get burnt out before I see any real results and then quit. SO this time, I’m going to go a bit slower. At first, I wanted to run every day until March 22nd. That’s realistic, right? Talk about putting a lot of pressure on myself! I decided, after some more thought, that this is not a realistic goal. Instead, I will run 5 days a week (Sundays and Thursdays off) for at least 15 minutes each time. Eventually, I’ll be able to build up my time and speed but this is definitely a good start. Something is always better than nothing!

To reward myself after my newfound workouts, I make a berry smoothie with soy milk (I found this one – no sugar added and organic), coconut water, frozen mixed berries (berries have the lowest glycemic index, i.e. less sugar, than other fruits) and a quarter of an avocado (to thicken it up). Plus, the oil in the avocado help to absorb all of the nutrients in the other ingredients.

Not a fan of avocados? You could add a tablespoon of hemp oil or flax oil.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a break and hopefully I’ll be able to finish some of that housework that keeps staring at me….

Enjoy!

Detox: Day Four

What a week! I only had a three day work week but Heaven knows that it felt like at least a six day week compressed into three.  I think it was mainly because of the adjustment to the detox diet and the fact that I had four glorious days off – which meant lots of sleeping in and lounging about, then when that alarm goes off for work I had to snap back into reality and get with the program: work, errands, house work, obligations. Not complaining – but I’m glad it’s Friday!

One aspect of the detoxing that I really like is that it gives me the opportunity to just take a break and do things that I don’t normally get the opportunity to do (scratch that – allot myself the opportunity to do).  This weekend, for once in a long time, I don’t have any serious plans. No scheduled dinners or birthday parties, no events or trips out of town to make. I just get to be at home all weekend and hibernate if I want to. And I just might. I have a mountain of laundry that needs some attention and I need to organize and clean my room before I trip and break my neck. I also want to spend time to catch up on some reading that I haven’t had the energy to do lately. Mainly, I just want to catch up with myself.

But the detox does have its drawbacks. I don’t want to paint this super rosy picture that this week so far has been a breeze. Frankly, it’s been quite challenging. There’s nothing I wanted more, most mornings, than a nice cup of chai tea with soy milk. Or one of my roommates fresh (?) buns that taunt me when I open the fridge to grab some spinach for my stir fry (that I’ve had for dinner and lunch two days in a row). Or the overwhelming craving for a nice, cold, pint of beer after a long week. Instead, I came home, had a nap and went for a run. Then I rewarded myself with a spinach salad with some smoked salmon on top (the recipe is below). It was AMAZING and very satifsfying! Almost made me forget about that pint that I was so looking forward to. But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel: I’ll be finishing my detox in time to celebrate my Irish heritage on St. Paddy’s day and will hopefully be feeling a lot less sluggish and shed those few pounds that I gained over the last month. More importantly, I hope to have regained some better eating habits instead of resorting to pizza when I’m starving after work.

Here’s that spinach salad I was gloating about:

Spinach Salad with Spicy Smoked Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 8-10 baby carrots (chopped)
  • 1 slice of red onion (chopped)
  • 2 handfuls of sprouts
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1/4 of lemon (juice)
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • Oregano
  • Salmon (sliced)
  • Olive oil (3 tbsps)
  • Chilli powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Black pepper (1/4 tsp)

Method:

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the spices once the oil is warm. Let the spices simmer for a minute then add the salmon. Let cook until the meat darkens. While this is cooking, grab a large bowl (you can either eat this as a meal or make it and share it with a friend).  Layer the spinach, carrots, onion, avocado and sprouts in the bowl. Squeeze the lemon slice and the lime over top of the salad. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top. Once the salmon has finished cooking, place the salmon on top of the salad and drizzle the spicy oil on the salad. Mix it all together, and voila!

Of course, you can add or replace whatever veggies you like but I found that this combination was very satisfying. Next time, I’d definitely add cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. If I weren’t detoxing, I’d add some goat cheese or feta, too. If you wanted to add some grains, you could always mix in some cooked quinoa. Why not? AND you could always replace the salmon with chicken (chopped up and fried in the same oil). Okay. I’ll stop and let you try this out for yourself.

Enjoy!

Detox: Always seems like a good idea at the time….

Well, I wish I had a good excuse for why I’ve been MIA the past couple of months, but I don’t. The holiday season was pretty crazy for me and my work load exploded. So between working lots and a full social calendar, I didn’t have much time to cook let alone blog. Then after Christmas, I had a few personal things to deal with and now, I’m back on track!

Since my eating habits needed a lot of fine tuning after one too many pizza nights and pitchers of beer, I recruited a friend of mine to do a detox diet with me for the next few weeks. What that means is: no dairy, no wheat, no refined sugar, no caffeine, no booze, and no smoking – basically, no junk!

It’s day 2 and I have to admit, it’s pretty tough so far. Temptations are everywhere! I was walking home from work tonight, starving, and I saw a massive poster for a large pizza for only $5. You have no idea how tempting that was. Or maybe you do. But I stayed focused and realized that quitting on day 2 is pretty lame, even for someone as inconsistent as me.

The secret of doing these kinds of diets is to plan ahead and make sure that you have enough of the right food on hand so that you don’t blow your diet and order a pizza (like I almost did) because you’re way too starving to even open the fridge. I’ve been there – it’s riduculous.

It’s amazing, too, how when you “deprive” yourself of certain things, it seems like that’s when you want it most. Today, for instance, was my first day back at work after four glorious days off and my eyes didn’t stop burning for one minute the entire day. Nope, not one single minute. All I wanted was a nice cup of chai tea or even a small cup of coffee to get the motor going but I’m not allowed. I ended up just sitting, staring blankly at my computer screen and imagining how delicious and satisfying a cup of coffee would be. Out of sheer will, I snapped out of it and got a cup of green tea and some water instead.  It only took about 5 cups of green tea before I sort of felt like myself again and by then, it was 4:30pm; almost time to go home. I think tomorrow will be better. It`s got to be. I’ve done these detox diets before and I always find that the first days are the hardest (mostly mentally).

For me, the hardest things to give up are drinking alcohol and dairy. To get through, I usually make a deal with myself that at the end of my detox, I’ll treat myself to a nice glass of red wine and some goat’s milk ice cream. Not both at the same time.

Anyways, today was pretty easy – for breakfast I had 2 eggs and some soy milk blended with strawberries; for lunch I had a MASSIVE spinach salad and for dinner, I had a delicious stir fry. I sent pictures to my friends who’s doing the detox with me and he was pretty jealous so I promised him that I’d blog about it. You’re welcome!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsps Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp (or to taste) Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 Black Pepper
  • 1/3 Turmeric
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 cloves of garlic choped
  • 3 chicken skinless/boneless chicken thighs (breast would work too, that just sounds wrong)
  • Bean Sprouts (a handful)
  • 1/2 a tomato, diced
  • Spinach (a handful)
  • 1/2 a Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
  • 1/2 a Floret of Broccoli
  • 1 cup of brown rice pasta or 2 servings of brown rice

Method:

In a large frying pan or skillet, pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and let it heat up. Once it’s heated, add the spices and stir them around so that they mix in with the oil.

Boil the water and cook the rice pasta or rice as directed.

Once the spices have heated up and are fragrant, add the diced onion. Stir it in the spiced oil and lit it simmer. Add the garlic and the diced tomato and stir. Let it cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the onions become translucent. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and the lime and pour it in the pan.  Add the diced chicken and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the broccoli and the red bell pepper. Stir all the ingredients together and make sure that the chicken pieces are cooked on both sides.

When the chicken looks like it’s mostly cooked (should be brown and nearly crispy on the outside with no visible raw skin showing), add the sprouts and the  spinach and stir, mixing all the ingredients. The stir fry is done when the spinach and sprouts are limp and have mixed in with the other ingredients.

When the rice pasta or rice is finished cooking, add to the pan and stir.

This should serve 2 but I like to put some aside for lunch the next day.

Enjoy!

Whey not?

I read, recently, that women do not get enough protein in their diet. This made me question my own eating habits and I realized that with my busy schedule, I’m probably not getting enough either. Even though I have a solid breakfast, a mid-morning snack and I drink plenty of water, I’m still STARVING by lunch time. What gives? Do I need to fry up a steak in the morning? Do I need to crack a few raw eggs in my mouth a la Rocky Balboa? I hope not. Then I remembered the wise words of my naturopath suggesting whey protein and I thought, whey not?

I went to Noah’s health food store and asked the sales person a million and one questions about whey protein – how much to take, what brands were good, what did she recommend for someone with a lactose, sugar and wheat sensitivities etc. She recomended an isolate – which is the whey protein in its purest form with minimal lactose. Of course, I opted for the natural flavour to avoid any additives. I figured by adding fresh fruit, not only would I get a natural flavour, but it would be sweet enough. She also had some great suggestions and shared with me that she adds fish oil or flax oil to her smoothy. I thought that was genius, so I totally copied her. Then, after a few days, I had the genius idea of adding matcha to my smoothy and I feel like a rock star! I usually add berries (strawberries have been the best so far) and/or a banana (but I limit my banana in take as bananas have a  lot of sugar).

Some immediate benefits were that I felt fuller for longer and I had more energy, especially after I went running.  After trying this out for a week, I’m noticing that my digestion is improving and I’m toning up a bit (but maybe that’s all in my head).

Anyways, I did some Internet research and I came across some great websites that explain why protein is important. Here’s one that you should check out.

Basically, whey protein is very low in fat and calories and a great source of amino acids, which is important because it:

  • helps build muscles
  • promotes skin, hair and nail growth
  • assists in weight management
  • assists with healthy aging
  • aids with wound healing

If you find that you are not getting enough protein in your diet but are watching your weight, I say, give it a try! You don’t have to be a body builder or competitive athlete to enjoy its benefits. Who doesn’t want a stronger immune sytsem and more energy? Especially now that cold and flu season is around the corner!

Here is my favourite recipe:

Combine the following ingredients in blender and blend on low until all contents are mixed.

  • Recommended serving of whey protein isolate
  • 1 handful of frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp of matcha
  • 2 tbsps of fish oil or flax oil
  • water (until desired consistency is achieved)

Enjoy!

Best First Date, Ever!

A couple of months ago, I was getting dinner at Kale and I noticed that they had desserts in their display. They had these coconut balls that instantly appealed to me, even before the lady behind the counter advised me that they were vegan, organic AND contained no added sugar. No added sugar? Were they bland? How were they sweet, then? Dates. I think dates are serious contenders for nature’s candy. Raisins, you better watch out! You’ve been warned!

Being an adventurous Aries, I decided that one day and one day soon, to make these myself. I scowered the interwebs in search of a recipe that omitted any kinds of sugar and had the simplest recipe with the simplest ingredients. I settled on the following, and ladies and gents, it turned out to be glorious! My parents and friends tried them and they asked me to make them again, which I totally will – when life settles down a bit (famous last words, I know).

Here’s the recipe!

For me, I don’t own a food processor and I naively thought that a blender would be the next best thing. Normally, it really is but when it comes to mashing mass quantities of sticky dates and coconut pieces, it was very laborious and time consuming – BUT well worth it!

If you’re using a blender, like me, I would blend the coconut first, then slowly add the dates in batches. I added everything at once and it was the worst. Nothing blended. Everything stuck to the blade. I had to pour in some water to get things to move and was constantly using a spoon to de-clog the dates from the blade so that the coconut pieces would blend. Excellent times.  But, like I said, well worth it!

See how nicely they turned out?

The best part? GUILT FREE! Just like Margarita says! This works with nearly every diet (unless you are avoiding coconut, but why? WHYYYY?)

Enjoy!