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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What Happens in Vega, Stays in Vega….

Ben Franklin said it best, “Lost time is never found again.”.

Have you ever woke up in the morning and thought, “If I could just sleep 10 more minutes, I’d feel so more refreshed?” But then, 10 minutes turns into 20 and before you know it, you’re scrambling to get out the door and get to work and you haven’t even had a bite to eat at breakfast (and no, a latte does NOT count).

This leads me to today’s post. I’d like to share with you a product that was recently recommended to me by a friend of mine. At first, I was sceptical, well, cynical, that this was worth the money.  But, after using it every day for 2 weeks, I have to say – this is a winner! If my name was Oprah Winfrey, I would definitely have this as one of my favourite things. But I’m not. So, I will just have to blog about it instead.

The product that I am gushing about is called Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer. I think the name says it all. But I’d like to go over what it is, the benefits and where to buy it.

Vega - Whole Food Health Optimizer (15 servings of goodness!)

Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, fibre, Omega 3 and 6, EFAs, antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes , ChlorEssence and MacaSure.

It comes in four flavours: Vanilla Chai (my favourite), Chocolate, Berry and Natural Flavour.

It’s free of any allergens and toxic additives such as: animal products, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, wheat, yeast, artificial sweeteners, GMOs and pesticides.

Additionally, it’s a clean product and alkaline forming. In short, a tall glass of heaven.

It was created by Brendan Brazier, a vegan and a professional iron man athlete. He wanted to create a formula and a line of nutritional products that would aid him to train and recover in the most efficient way.

Here is his story .

He recently developed a new and improved version of the Whole Food Health Optimizer called One.

I just purchased a bunch of the old stuff since it was on sale, so eventually when I run out, I’ll be looking forward to trying this out!

Why do I like this product so much that I would want to share it with you? Here is a quick list of why I think this product is great:

    1. Convenient. This is SUPER easy to make. All you really need is a cup, a measuring cup and some water. But if you want to be fancy like me, get your trusty blender out and add a couple of ice cubes and 300ml of water and blend. It makes a bit of a slushy and is delicious! It’s also super easy for when you travel. Just pre-measure the amount you will need depending on the number of days you’re gone and pack it along with the scoop that is provided in the tub. I have a plastic cup with a lid that I bring with me, so all I need to do is put 2 scoops of the powder in the cup along with enough water, put that lid on TIGHT and shake until the mix is dissolved. Then I chug that baby down and I’m done. Believe it or not, it keeps you full for about 3 or 4 hours. Starting to see why I’m loving this so much?

    2. Save time in the mornings cooking breakfast. No more waking up and wondering what to make. No more wasting so much money on overpriced breakfast cereals (that are generally laden with sugars). Simply wake up, shake, drink and go. Even if you don’t have time at home, you can always bring and keep some at work to prepare at the office. If you LOOOOVE breakfast, this also makes a great meal replacement for lunch, especially if you have all day meetings or no time to grab lunch. Or you could have half of a serving as a snack!

    3. Save money vitamins. Since this product contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins, you won’t need to shell out money on supplements and multivitamins.  Yes, please!

    4. More energy and knowing that you’re doing something great for your health. I’ve definitely noticed that I have more energy and just feel good since taking this product. Digestion is better and I have more clarity and focus.

    5. Gluten, dairy, wheat, soy, sugar, chemical free product‘nough said!

    6. Good for the environment. I thought this was clever:

      I thought this was interesting.

So, where does one purchase this fine product? It can be found at any health food store such as Noah’s or in the health food store section of your grocery store.

This site also sells it http://shopca.sequelnaturals.com/ and will also indicate where Vega products are sold http://myvega.com/find-a-store .

It costs anywhere from $60 to $80 depending on the store.

Like I said, I’ve been seeing it on sale since there will be a new version launched soon. But it’s totally worth the cost considering the money you spend each month on vitamins and breakfast. Plus, aren’t you worth it?

If you’ve read this and thought that this sounds amazing and would really benefit you then I suggest that you buy some (you can buy a smaller tub for about $45) and try it out for a week and see how you like it. Why not?

I hope at the very least, I’ve given you some good information and something different to think about.

Enjoy!

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!

Curried Veggie Chickpea Stew

The one thing that I’ve come to enjoy about cooking is the creativity aspect of it. I love having a whole bunch of ingredients in front of me and trying to come up with something healthy and delicious to make.  Last night, I had some tomatoes to clean up so I decided to make a tomato-based curried stew.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of spices, which is funny because I grew up in a household where paprika was considered exotic.

When I went to India, last year (I can’t believe it’s been almost a year already!) I felt right at home with their food – the spicier the better! The people I was staying with were amazed that a white girl could handle all the spices and chilli. Honestly, I was a bit amazed too until the end of my trip when my stomach began to revolt against me.  Needless to say, it took me a few months to recover and to be able to eat curry again.

How could I ever stop, though?! Which leads me to today’s leftovers – Curried Veggie Chickpea Stew.

Here it is in the bowl, ready to eat for dinner!

Chickpeas are a Godsend and are a super healthy alternative to eating meat.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 chilli flakes
  • 1/4 garam masala
  • 1/2 curry powder
  •  1/4 paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  •  1 and 1/2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 head broccoli steamed (this was left over from the other day)
  • 1/2 carrot peeled and chopped
  •  1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 small potato, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup of brown rice

Method:

  1. Cook the rice as directed.
  2. In the meantime, in a large sauce pan or pot, heat the olive oil then add the spices. Stir in the oil until fragrant.
  3. Add the onions and stir so that the spices mix in with the onions and let simmer for a few minutes, then add the garlic and stir. Let simmer for another minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red peppers, and carrots. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Add the water, chickpeas and broccoli. Stir all contents together and cover for 10 minutes. Cook until the tomatoes have “melted” and until it is lightly boiling.

Serve over brown rice.

This was definitely amazing as a left over meal. It’s nice and light yet filling and I don’t feel sleepy or sluggish after lunch. I will definitely be making this again! Next time, I’d like to try it with water chestnuts or even some small apple pieces to add some sweetness.

What will you experiment with?

Enjoy!

Baked Salmon and Veggie Stir fry

Day two! Seriously, there is nothing better than waking up and realizing that your lunch is already made. Actually, the next best thing  is waking up and realizing that it’s Saturday.

I was so tired this morning that it took me at least 3 minutes to figure out where I was and what day it was. That’s normal, right? But after a couple of cups of tea, I’m feeling more energetic and able to keep up a conversation without struggling, well..sort of.

Is it lunch time, yet? Home time? It’s only Tuesday, right?

Last night, I had a tonne of errands to run, since I was so lazy on Sunday and needed to make something quick. I realized that I had some salmon to clean up so I decided to make baked salmon in a bit of lemon juice with spices and then a veggie stir fry and all over some rice noodles. I was going to make some brown rice, but I dropped the ball and thought of it a bit too late – so noodles it was!

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients for the salmon

  • 1 Salmon fillet
  • The juice of 1 lemon or ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of water ¼ tsp of thyme
  • ¼ tsp of chilli flakes ¼ tsp of black pepper
  • ¼ tsp mustard powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  2. Put the salmon fillet in a baking dish and pour the water and lemon juice in the base of the dish.
  3. Sprinkle the spices on top of the fish. Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes.

Ingredients for the stir fry:

The beauty of stir fries, is that you can seriously make them with any combination of your favourite veggies and spices. Be careful of sauces as they often contain extra sodium and sugar and preservatives which totally defeats the purpose of making a healthy stir fry in the first place!

  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped into strips)
  • ½ head of steamed broccoli (chopped)
  • ½ peeled and chopped carrot ¼ of an onion (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped) 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika 2 tbsp of olive oil 2 tbsp of soy sauce or I recommend Liquid Aminos
  • 1 cup of rice or any rice noodle that you prefer

Method:

  1. Prepare the rice or noodles as directed and steam the broccoli.
  2. While that is cooking, heat the oil in medium or large frying pan (whatever you prefer).
  3. Once the oil has heated, add the black pepper and parika. Stir the spices in with the oil until fragrant. Add the onions and stir until they are soft then add the garlic.
  4. After a few minutes, add the red peppers and stir, then add the carrots and the broccoli (after it has been steamed).
  5. Stir in the soy sauce or liquid aminos and let simmer.
  6. When everything is ready, cut up the salmon and place veggies over the rice and serve.

Serves about 2 people.

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!

Just left of leftovers.

What’s so great about leftovers? Especially a mish-mash of veggies sitting in your fridge that don’t quite fit into any other recipe?

You know what?

What?

They’re great for making soup!

The other day, when I was looking through my fridge, I noticed that I had about a handful of spinach, half of a head of cauliflower and a half a bag of baby carrots that weren’t going to eat themselves and I couuldn’t think for the life of me what I could use these for. Then it hit me…I decided to get creative and make a soup out of them. Yes! Genius! I know it’s about 40c here, BUT I couldn’t let these go to waste and it’s SO easy to make soup. Plus, I’m feeling pretty confident these days about my mad cooking skillz so I decided to try out my very own original recipe (though I’m sure someone has made this at some point in time). Anyways, it was easy, and delicious!

If you love creamy soups with a bit of kick, then this will totally be up your alley.

Ingredients:

  • ½ head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 TBSP of chopped ginger
  • 1 TBSP of chopped jalapeno pepper (don’t feel pressure if you don’t like it hot)
  • 1/3 TSP of all spice
  • 1/3 TSP of paprika
  • A pinch of salt or salt to taste
  • 1 cup veg broth or enough to add consistency
  • A dollop of goat cheese (optional, but amazing!)

Method:

  1. Steam the cauliflower, carrots, ginger and jalapeno pepper until soft. Test it by sticking a fork in the carrots and cauliflower.
  2. Add some of the steamed veggies, the spinach and spices to a blender. Slowly add the veggie broth to blend. Slowly add broth and veggies until all ingredients are mixed.
  3. This will be a hot soup, so make sure that your blender or food processor can handle the heat.
  4. Serve immediately and add that dollop of goat cheese and mix it in the soup.

TIP: Freeze extra portions for later!

Serving: Makes about 4-6 cups.

Time: However long it takes to steam your veggies plus 10 minutes of blending.

Enjoy!

Breakfast of Champions!

When I first started changing the way I ate, I had a really hard time with figuring out what to eat for breakfast. I had to avoid wheat and sugar so 99% of all breakfast cereals were off the list; and, bye-bye to toast in the morning, too. I had read that eggs are a good option since they provide protein to keep you full and don’t fall into any of the “no-no” categories that I had to avoid.

I decided to spice it up and make omelettes – so, I’d throw some spinach, onions and garlic and some spices in the mix. Sounds yummy, eh? BUT, after 3 weeks straight of omelettes, the thought of eating another egg made me want to throw up.

Before I became completely repulsed by eggs, I decided that on my next visit to my Naturopath that I would get some advice. She gave me the go-ahead to have oats in the morning. Huh. I thought oats were the same as wheat!? Nope. Totally different family.  Who knew? So that was good news. She also recommended that I buy Ezekiel bread which is bread made of sprouted grain i.e. not processed and it’s way easier on my immune system. At least that way, she said, I’d have more options than just omelettes every morning. BARF!

The Ezekiel bread, I will discuss later on (which is AMAZING by the way, can be found in your grocer’s freezer section, in the “organics” section OR in any health food store).

Okay, back to oatmeal. Because I’m a bit of a go-getter, the very next day, I bought a bag of Robin Hood Minute Oats for less than $2.00. This product has everything that I could ever want…Cheap and easy. I’ve had it about 4 days a week since May and I’m JUST running out now, so I think that it was well worth the toonie. Just sayin’.

Here’s my oatmeal from this morning, nicely cooked. It seriously only took me a few minutes.

And while that was cooking, I mixed some ingredients in my bowl (at least I can justify the fact that I put “multi-tasking” on my resume).

I had read,too, that if you are going to have veggies or carbs, that it’s a good idea to mix it with protein in order to balance out the insulin levels (blood sugar) in your body to avoid feeling too hungry later on and to keep you pancreas working steadily. Apparently, insulin spikes are bad – they lead to light headedness, fatigue, drowsiness, weight gain, irritability etc.

Ever feel drowsy and cranky after eating too much? Kind of like you’re in a coma? That’s why. Too much sugar from the starches in your food is causing a negative reaction in your body. If you balance out your meals with enough protein, you’ll avoid these effects. Seriously, why didn’t I know this before?

So! Back to the morning oats…here is what I came up with (after a few months of experimenting):

  • 1 serving of minute oats (cooked)
  • 1 small handful of sliced almonds
  • 3 dates chopped
  • ¼ TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1 TSP grated coconut

Mix these in the bowl and enjoy!

Other variants can include (though I have not tried this yet, but daydream about it):

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts (okay, I lied, I have tried this and it was glorious!)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Nutmeg
  • Agave honey (A little goes a long way, people)
  • Maple Syrup (preferably pure and/or organic – or unprocessed – again, a little goes a long way)

What else tickles your fancy? Get creative!

You can also purchase pre-made granola or trail mixes at the health food store or grocery store, but read the ingredients as they often contain a lot of added sugar. Plus, most of these ingredients purchased can be used in other recipes like smoothies or salads. I am amazed by what I find out just by reading the ingredients (something I never did before). If it contains, wheat, dairy, preservatives (i.e. something I can’t pronounce) or sugar, I ditch it. NEXT!

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!