These two themes kept coming up

The summer holidays are over. Uni has started again and the new term has started, and the greatest news is I’m still loving all the lectures! 🙂

The last one, just before I left to catch the plane from London back to Malaysia, was on Female & Male Health. OK, admittedly, that doesn’t sound so interesting. But here’s what’s so exciting about the topic. It’s all about understanding how our hormones work, how we metabolise them in our bodies and how they can go out of balance.

For those of us who are well into or even past our 40s, the symptoms of unbalanced hormones can show up as poor sleep, fatigue, irritability, hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, itching skin, memory loss, low libido, weight gain and more. It’s no surprise then to wonder if our best years are behind us and to question, “Is this it? Is life downhill from here on out?”

That’s exactly how I felt when I was 48.

Now, here’s the thing. Because the degree I’m doing is based in Functional Medicine, we don’t much care about the label given to a condition as such. Instead, we look at where or how the body isn’t functioning optimally and then work to get to the underlying root cause of that imbalance. Yes, lab tests often help to guide us in understanding exactly where these imbalances are, so that they can be addressed. But, regardless of that, two themes kept coming up, again and again, in virtually everything we looked at, which don’t require lab tests.

These two themes were the very ones that helped me, after I read that book that transformed my perspective from always and secretly wanting to lose weight, to understanding that food “tells” our bodies what to do. Putting it another way, food actually communicates to the hormones in our bodies. This was a major light bulb moment for me. And it’s also exactly the lightbulbs that happen for my coaching clients.

Many of us have mistakenly placed all emphasis on calories and calories only, without knowing that it’s the quality of the food that makes the difference, because of the messages it carries. For example, eating certain foods tells your body to pile the weight on, and other foods tell your body to build muscle, while some foods put your body into physiological stress, and other foods can calm you down.

So, the foods that you choose have a direct impact on either helping to keep your hormones in balance or helping to kick them out of balance. Which means, that the foods you choose to eat can have a significant impact on your experience of those symptoms I mentioned above.

Now, remember how I said that in Functional Medicine, we look to get down to the root causes?

Drum roll now please, for the two themes, over which you actually have more control over than you might think and which go hand in hand. They are:

  1. Normalise weight
  2. Normalise blood sugar and insulin levels (insulin itself being a hormone)

It may not sound so sexy when put like that, I know. But if you really want to make a difference to your energy levels and how you feel in yourself and about yourself, then this means choosing foods that help you to do just that.

Here’s how in a nutshell

  • Scrap the C.R.A.P. – Caffeine, Refined sugar, Alcohol, Processed food. These throw your hormones out of balance.
  • Make protein and non-starchy vegetables the foundation of all your meals. There’s plenty to choose from – salmon, eggs, cottage cheese, tuna, chicken…. Protein will fill you up (protein takes longer to break down), and help to balance your blood sugar levels to ensure you have energy throughout the day without experiencing hunger pangs or sugar dips.
  • Add some healthy fat – olive oil, avocado, raw nuts and seeds… These help you to feel satisfied and are also needed by your body for optimal functioning.
  • Keep starches low, focusing on protein, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats to keep you filled and satisfied.

Now, to get your ideas flowing as to the types of meals you can have from focusing on those 4 things, here’s a list to get you going.

Your starter list of meals to try:

Soups

  • Coconut cream of Carrot, Orange and Ginger Soup with Chicken garnished with almonds
  • Creamy Cauliflower and Salmon Soup with Roasted Crushed Pecans

Salads

  • Thai Style Chicken Salad with Cashews
  • Spicy Chicken Wings with Roast Cauliflower/Roast Peppers
  • Tuna Salad with Avocado
  • Chicken roasted in cumin and coconut oil, with quinoa, celery, apple and cashews/almonds
  • Tuna, asparagus & orange
  • Prawn lettuce wrap – red peppers, cucumber, lettuce, thai dressing, chilli, coriander
  • Chicken with roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and caraway
  • Ground turkey fried in chilli and cumin, served with avocado, greek yogurt salsa, tomatoes and romaine lettuce

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Red Curry Prawns/Fish Laksa with Basil/Coriander, Lime & Chilli
  • Salmon Cakes with Mango and Coriander Salsa
  • Simple Baked Salmon in Coconut Milk
  • Ginger & Sesame Baked Cod or Salmon with Bok Choy
  • Roast Chicken with Caraway, Fried Mushrooms and sugar snap peas
  • Stuffed Peppers with tuna, basil and pine nuts
  • Caraway, Sweet Potato and King Prawn Chowder – here’s the recipe
  • Beef Bourguinon (no added flour)
  • Steak with Herb Butter/Chimchurri
  • Roast butterfly of pork fillet with rosemary
  • Pan-grilled pork fillet in thyme and lemon served with apple and chilli slaw (cabbage & carrot) in yogurt, mustard and white wine vinegar dressing, plus coriander

Snacks

  • Almond Butter & Celery
  • Apples and Turkey with Cheddar
  • Berries & Yogurt
  • Homemade Sunflower/Sesame/Almond Crackers
  • Easy-to-make Paleo Bread – Go on – give it a go!
  • Prosciutto & Pears
  • Chia Seed Pudding

Desserts

Not a bad list, eh? And when you cook those meals and serve them up, many people don’t recognise that it’s actually healthy food, because it looks good and it tastes good.

Alright, maybe one of these days I’ll get my act together and post recipes and photographs. That said, documenting things really aren’t my strong point, so please don’t hold your breath, but feel free to remind me!

Now over to you. How will you change some of your food choices today?

Make your next years your best years.

Recipe: Chocolate Coconut Ice-Cream

Evidently it’s Chocolate Ice Cream Day today, June 7. Who knew?

I certainly didn’t. Did you? And anyway, do you care? Haha!

But I think it’s a good excuse to share a chocolate ice-cream recipe with you. I love this ice-cream because it’s so easy to make. Plus it’s healthy, because it contains protein, healthy fats and many valuable nutrients.

It’s dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, and preservative-free. However, it’s not sugar-free, as it uses honey as a sweetener, which, according to Nutrition Data, is 82% sugar by weight, with about half of that being fructose. But, here’s the thing – the recipe doesn’t use any old honey, but raw honey.

Raw honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, and also antioxidants. It also has anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties, and also possesses other properties that can support health. However, most honeys sold in the average supermarket are pasteurized and highly processed, to the extent that any potential benefits are lost, leaving only the sugar elements behind. So be sure to use raw honey in this recipe, to ensure that you are making a healthy version of the ice-cream.

If you’d like to read more about the differences between raw and processed honey, here is a great article from http://permaculturenews.org/2014/02/08/shocking-differences-raw-honey-processed-golden-honey-found-grocery-retailers/

Now back to the ice-cream. It also contains almond butter and coconut milk. Almond butter is a good source of protein, with one tablespoon containing about the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat, and it also has dietary fibre and other nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin E and iron. Coconut milk also has magnesium and iron, plus manganese, copper, phosphorus, and potassium. It is high in saturated fat that is mostly in the form of medium-chain fatty acids, which is easily used for energy. It also contains lauric acid which is anti-viral and anti-bacterial and may therefore help protect the body from infections.

The bottom-line is, if you’re going to eat an ice-cream, then this is the recipe for you. It’s delicious and it’s also quite rich in depth and flavor, so I find that I don’t need as large a serving in order to feel satisfied – perfect for a guiltless treat every now and again.

Ready for it? Here goes.

Chocolate Coconut Ice-Cream

Ingredients

1 can full-fat coconut milk (400g) – look for one without any additives or preservatives
1/4 cup raw honey (and ideally, organic)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond butter
2 tbsp unsweetened organic cocoa powder or cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Simply stir everything together using a whisk, freeze and then remove from the freezer and stir it up again every couple of hours or so. To serve, remove it from the freezer about 20 minutes beforehand to allow it to soften up sufficiently for scooping.

Well, as it’s National Chocolate Ice-Cream Day, I’m going to have some tonight with some fresh raspberries and a light sprinkling of toasted coconut. Like the photo? (Lol, we couldn’t wait for it to be ready so we had it as a summer iced soup dessert!)

Now, over to you. If you give this recipe a go, I’d love to hear what you think about it.

Love

Veronica
xo

How To Have Your Chocolate And Eat It

I know it’s been a little while…. I’ve finally finished the essay I’ve been writing for the degree and now, Easter is virtually upon us!

How will you be spending Easter? I do hope that you’ll be making some time for yourself, relaxing and taking a well-deserved break, and doing at least one thing that will have you feeling really good.

Finding ways to relax and de-stress is super-key for us, especially at the age we’re at, because our bodies need that down time to heal and re-build.

But wait! Are all those Easter bunnies and Easter eggs bouncing around more than enough to jolt you into a place of guilt at the mere thought of eating chocolate?

Never fear. It really is possible to have your chocolate and eat it – by choosing the right chocolate to have.

Chocolate is potentially good for us. Dark chocolate (70% and over) is rich in flavonoids and has anti-oxidant properties (read “The Power of Antioxidants For A Younger You” here) which can be beneficial for our health. If you love dark chocolate, go for it – up to 70g a day is fine, although you’re likely to feel satisfied with half that amount. But if you’re anything like I was when I was still hooked on sugar, dark chocolate just didn’t hit the spot, because it didn’t taste sweet enough or creamy enough. But, I got you covered.

Here’s a recipe that I came across at Elana’s Pantry (she has some fabulous recipes). Not only is it tasty and delicious enough for serving even when you’re having friends or family around for lunch, it’s also nourishing to body, heart, mind and soul.. It has a chocolatey rich taste that satisfies, and the ingredients are healthy too, so you can do away with any potentially guilty thoughts.

There is still sugar in this recipe – normal sugar (sucrose) that’s already in the chocolate and the added sweetener is xylitol.

Xylitol is a wood sugar that has the same level of sweetness as sucrose but doesn’t raise insulin levels in the same way. This means that you don’t have the crash that can come after eating foods that cause your blood sugar levels to spike, compelling you to crave for even more sugar afterwards. Make sure when you are buying xylitol, that it is made 100% from birch. There is a version made from corn which isn’t recommended, so please watch out for that. Also, a small number of people don’t digest xylitol well, and if taken in large amounts, it can cause some digestive upset. For me, when I was weaning myself off my sugar addiction, this was a good way to get some sweet satisfaction – at that time, I used 100% dark chocolate so the only sweetener was the added xylitol. (Caution. Dogs can’t process xylitol at all, so please make sure you don’t let them have any).

Choose the best chocolate available, ideally organic, and there’ll be no need to try and deprive yourself of chocolate indulgence this Easter.

Easy Chocolate Dessert (adapted from Elana’s Pantry)

Makes 6 servings

• 100g 85% dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
• 1 x 400ml can coconut milk – don’t shake the can up before opening
• ¼ cup xylitol
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil

(1) Place chocolate chunks with the coconut oil into a pot and place over low heat
(2) Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring all the time
(3) Slowly add the coconut milk, mixing the thick creamy part first (this stops the chocolate from potentially separating)
(4) Add the xylitol and stir until melted
(5) Pour into serving glasses or ramekins and refrigerate overnight
(6) Serve

Have a wonderful time.

xo

Better Than Before Breakfast Muffins

Better than before? What’s that mean?

It means that it passes the “Sugar Fixed Tripod Test” – that is, that this muffin has all three elements that we want in each meal we have – protein, healthy fat and fibre. What’s more, it’s also gluten-free and tastes sweet, which satisfies those of us who feel we need something sweet for breakfast.

It’s better than before, because most muffins on the market have gluten in it and are high in sugar – setting you up for that sugar spike and subsequent crash, which disrupts your blood sugar levels for the entire day, leaving you with cravings. Who needs that!

This recipe is great because it only takes about 5 minutes to make and 20 minutes in the oven. Great with melted butter!

So here’s my Better Than Before Breakfast Muffin recipe.

Ingredients

5 medium eggs

240g almond paste

75 g xylitol (make sure this is 100% made from wood birch, not corn)

1/4 tsp baking soda

4 drops lemon essential oil (optional, but if you do use this, make sure it’s certified therapeutic food grade – not all essential oils are edible; here’s where I get mine from)

handful of strawberries or blueberries or both

some slivered or flaked toasted almonds (optional)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C and prepare your muffin tin with your muffin cases.

Add the eggs and sugar into a mixing bowl and beat well.

Add the almond paste and beat until smooth and creamy.

Add the baking soda and lightly mix.

Spoon into the muffin cases and top with the berries.

Top with the slivered or flaked almonds, if using.

Put the muffins in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack and eat.

How simple was that? 🙂

Oh, if you’re wondering why there isn’t a picture of the baked muffins…errr, I forgot and then we ate them all!

Caraway, Sweet Potato & King Prawn Chowder

I love roasted vegetables and I’ll often roast some sweet potato to have as a side dish or as a snack. Sometimes, I’ll cook up a big batch and if there’s any left over, I’ll use it as a base for this soup. Using the roasted version gives a fuller flavour and a distinct aroma that comes from the roasting. But I have to say that it’s not often that I have any roasted sweet potatoes left over for this!

This soup is so simple to make, and quick too, especially if you make plenty of the sweet potato base and keep some already made in the fridge. Then you can just take out the base and cook the soup in less than fifteen minutes. Move over Jamie Oliver, haha!

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil
½ onion, chopped
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks
750ml chicken stock
2 x 150g raw king prawns
1 can coconut milk
1 carrot, diced
200g green beans, cut into short lengths
1-2 tsp chilli powder
salt and pepper
Caraway seeds

Method

Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a pot and lightly fry the onion until soft. Add the sweet potato and chicken stock, then simmer until cooked. Allow to cool slightly. Puree in a blender and set aside.

Heat the remaining coconut oil over a medium heat and add the chilli powder. Lightly fry until fragrant, taking care not to burn the spice. Return the now pureed sweet potato to the pot. Add the coconut milk and bring to a light boil.

Add the carrot and the green beans and allow to simmer for about a minute. Then add the prawns. Season and simmer for a few minutes until the prawns are just cooked. Do not overcook.

Pour the soup into serving bowls. Garnish with caraway seeds.

Bliss Filled Chocolate Banana Smoothie

To me, there’s nothing like starting the day with a delicious filling tasty smoothie, apart from those days when I fancy a full cooked breakfast, lol! Do give a go and let me know how you like it. You could also add a teaspoon of macs powder to it. Maca comes from the root of the maca plant and has a toffee-like smell that is subtle but full of superfood goodness.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut water
1 scoop whey protein powder or egg white protein powder
½ ripe banana (or frozen banana)
handful of kale
 or spinach
2 tbsp almond butter or cashew butter
1-2 tsp xylitol, to taste (or stevia)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao
3-5 ice cubes (optional – omit if using frozen banana)

Method

Blend them all up until smooth and enjoy! Feel weird about the egg white? It’s an ingredient in many cocktails too, you don’t taste it and it gives you the protein you need, not just to fill you up, but also as building blocks for a healthy body.

Easy-to-Make Paleo Bread

Lol, I hardly ever make anything that’s not easy to make these days. I can’t eat normal breads as a matter of course because the strong flour used in making breads makes me feel as if I’ve taken a sleeping tablet and I just can’t keep my eyes open.

This bread is great because it has a good dollop of protein in it and it’s gluten-free. It has a slightly nutty flavour and the little bit of honey in it gives it a teensy bit of sweetness. I make it the “old-fashioned” way too – with a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl. :-)

Try it out and let me know how you like it. It’s great served warm too and I especially love it with a generous spread of butter.

Easy-To-Make Paleo Bread

(adapted from Elana’s Pantry)

Ingredients:
2 cups blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
¼ cup golden flaxmeal
¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C or 350°F.
Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed.
Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil, honey and vinegar into the middle.
Using a wooden spoon (or your hands, make sure they’re clean, of course), draw in the dry ingredients from the sides into the middle and combine until well mixed.
Transfer batter to a greased 7.5 x 3.5 loaf pan.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Cool in the pan for 2 hours.
Serve.

Voila!

Beautifying Blueberry Coconut Smoothie Recipe

This is one of my breakfast staples. So quick, so easy, so delicious.

I find the coconut milk can make it too rich so I generally use that same amount all coconut water instead. The coconut milk, I love, for an evening smoothie!

Ingredients

½ cup frozen blueberries
½ frozen banana

1 generous handful of spinach
1 tsp coconut oil
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water or coconut water
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder or egg white protein powder

Method

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Just like that.