Survival of the Fittest Thoughts

"It doesn't matter what you learn about nutrition, if you don't also learn to love yourself, you will never give the body what it needs" – Maria Ayne R.H.N.

I’m super excited to share this particular recipe. I say this because, one of the things that urks me the most about many paleo, wholefood and “healthy” alternative recipes out there are the excessive amount of sweeteners in all of them. Sure, some of these sweeteners are better than others, but not everything needs maple syrup and honey in it. Sweetening recipes still leads to: insulin spikes, excess energy consumption, and overtime can make your palette less sensitive to other foods, among many other things.

I’m a huge advocate of making sure breakfast foods are low GI and this easy recipe is just the way to do that!

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 6 medium free range eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean powder
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut flakes for decorating

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 170 C or 350 F

In a blender, combine bananas, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder and coconut oil and blend until smooth. Add the coconut flour and chia seeds and blend again. Lightly oil a loaf tin before lining with baking paper. Spoon in the batter and decorate with coconut flakes. Let it sit for 10 minutes before putting it in the oven. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Sending love from Sydney.

Once you try these delicious bite sizes pieces of chocolately-coconut heaven, you may have a hard time believing that they are good for you. Made with 100% real whole-food ingredients, this recipe will be quickly become one of your favourites.

Ingredients:

Filling

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 cups desiccated coconut
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean powder
  • 3 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Coating

  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/8 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, whisk coconut milk and coconut oil until they are well combined. Then add vanilla, honey and sea salt and mix well. Slowly add in desiccated coconut and mix until there are no lumps.

Line a square baking dish and pour in the mixture, then place it in the freezer for 2 hours to set. Take it out of the freezer and cut into 1 cm x 3 cm bars, and then freeze for an additional 20 mins.

Meanwhile, to make the chocolate coating, mix cacao powder, coconut oil and honey together in a small bowl. Make sure the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Remove the coconut bars from the freezer and dip each bar completely into the chocolate coating, and then place them on a lined baking tray. Freeze for an additional 30 mins. Transfer to the fridge in an airtight container for storage.

Enjoy!

Willpower is an incredibly deceptive little fucker. It appears to work so effectively a good portion of the time, but then it always seems to fail miserably when we need it the most. Ever wonder why at times it’s so remarkably reliable to count on, and then within mere hours so deeply unfaithful?

It’s because willpower works similarly to a muscle – the more you use it the stronger it gets – but just like a muscle it can become drained and fatigued with overuse. Even the act of repeated decision making during a day can have a significant impact on how quickly one experiences willpower fatigue. In addition, states of low blood sugar mean your brain will have less fuel to power it – a clue to why starving oneself is so closely intertwined with bouts of binging.

Willpower is often your primary defence in the face of temptations, making this one of the reasons why addictions appear to be so laborious to overcome. The more you desire something or someone, the more often and the more intensely you use willpower to avoid succumbing to it, and the quicker you will use up stores. Making it much more likely you will be left standing completely defenceless in the face of your seductress.

Sugar was my seductress, and I can say with certainty that I know that I am definitely not alone.

If you are one of the countless people who knows how important it is to eat clean and avoid junk food, but you can’t actually make good decisions when it comes to your meal plan for any significant period of time, then you are highly likely a victim of repeated willpower fatigue. If you, like so many others, have ever broken a promise to yourself about adopting a healthier lifestyle – or if you perhaps have a habit of binging on something you’ve repeatedly vowed to quit – then you now know the culprit.

Learning this was pivotal in my wellness journey, because in order to effectively control anything you need to know how it works, and governing our desires work no differently than anything else.

How does one escape from this destructive maze?

The answer is to harvest a greater desire that not only trumps the old one in how much we want it, but it must also conflict considerable with the old goal or addiction that you have become a defenceless prisoner to – the trick is to no longer have a longing for the old habit. If you are using willpower to avoid something, then that’s a great indicator that you still have a longing for it, and perhaps you haven’t yet linked a greater goal to put down the old one for. You can understand why it can’t just be any old goal, it needs to be an inner burning desire from within you that holds more weight than any other desire you’ve had in the past. It’s almost a cruel joke that what often dictates our desires, is what we perceived to be denied of in the past.

It doesn’t work if you try injecting a new goal that is actually someone else’s desire for you, or someone else’s desire or habit you have inflicted upon yourself. It is important that it be for you, and an innate desire that motivates you without outside influence – there needs to be a constant state, and we all know that we are the only guaranteed constant thing in our own lives.

We all have these inner burning desires, but too often we don’t believe we deserve them or we have fear holding us back from going after them, maybe we feel incapable of obtaining what we really want. Sometimes we can’t even admit that we even want them out of fear of failure or rejection. Many factors can lead us to bury these desires, making more room for external addictions.

I know it’s easier said than done, but examining who you are and what you really want in your life, and what you feel you deserve for yourself – and then actually taking steps to go after it – may very well be the only way out of the maze.

It was this piece of the puzzle that really helped me the most and I hope it works similarly for you. It has been examining this piece that made me realise how paramount it is to our own personal reality that we really examine ourselves and lead me to understand how important it really is to “know thyself”.

In the next following posts we will cover topics on methods to better know thyself, and a few other factors you need to know about the brain and how it relates to emotional eating and food addictions, so stay tuned.

Sending love from Sydney.

Maria

P.S. You all know how much I love feedback, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment and let me know how you felt about this post.

 

 

 

 

Chocoholic
noun
1.a person who is excessively fond of chocolate.
Origin of chocoholic
choco(late) + -holic
Chocoholic
A chocoholic is a person who craves or compulsively consumes chocolate.
'Chocoholism' is quite common. In studies of food cravings, chocolate and chocolate confectioneries almost always top the list of foods people say they crave.[3] According to WebMD women are especially vulnerable to having this behavior.

An addiction so powerful it has earned its way into dictionary.com and wikipedia.org. Well played chocolate, well played…but what brings this rich chocolate delight to the top of everyones list of foods they crave? What’s in this little bean that has lead so many people, especially women, so vulnerable? It can’t be the taste, I mean raw cacao bean has got to be one of the most offensive things I have ever put in my mouth. Some might argue that when working with the right accomplices – sugar and milk – it’s taste quite divine, but so does everything else short of mud. When doing a comparison on just taste, I might even say I prefer vanilla, but I don’t ever crave a vanilla cake. In fact, according to my sources – dictionary.com and wikipedia.org – vanillaholic isn’t even a word. Not even a word, despite being the secret weapon in so many desserts. The chocolate puzzle must have another layer.

I will refer to that layer as Magnesium.

Magnesium is an essential mineral, meaning we need it to survive. We exhausted our body’s reserves more rapidly in times of stress, fatigue, physical exertion and of course – if you’re lucky enough to be a lady – when aunt flow comes to town. Hurray for being a lady…Not! Dietary sources of magnesium include spices, nuts, cereals, dark leafy green vegetables and cacao.

Well then, you could argue it must be healthy if chocolate is on that list. While the philosophy on cacao bean and nutrition wavers depending on the nutritionist, the kind of chocolate confectionary you crave when you are stressed is pretty unanimously agreed by all experts to be a nutritional villain.

The thought pattern that “I am craving it, so my body must need it” falls a little short here, as most people don’t crave many of those other foods on that list the way they do chocolate, yet some of them are even more abundant sources of magnesium. Ah, yet another layer to this addictive thriller.

This layer can also be known as Zinc.

Zinc is the most common of mineral deficiencies, and happens to be used up more rapidly in the body when we consume and metabolize sweet treats. Some of the first signs of a zinc deficiency include reduced sense of smell, loss of appetite, and taste changes. All of these factors make you less likely to reach for spinach when magnesium stores are low and more likely to reach for a more powerful sensation – like a hit of chocolate. The taste of nuts and cereals just don’t have quiet the same bite as that dark bean.

It’s a vicious little spiral; as each time we succumb to the compulsion to reach for our favourite chocolate dessert, we simultaneously create another deficiency that leads us to prefer to reach for that same chocolate dessert next time around and less likely to want anything to do with the much healthier options. What’s worse is, it is often those with powerful food cravings who are also the notorious perpetual dieters. Adding yet another portion to the recipe for your zinc deficiency disaster.

It’s those who restrict food intake that are most vulnerable to this compounding wreck. Restricting calories, skipping meals and cutting off certain food sources are among the main culprits to so many nutritional deficiencies in first world countries, zinc being right there at the top of mineral deficiency list. Although no less wicked than another other nutritional deficiency – as an absence in any essential nutrient will devastate the body.

Don’t play nutritional shaman of your own life if you don’t really know what the consequences are. Just because some fad diet where you only ate two days a week and starved yourself the other five days of the week worked for you a year ago, doesn’t mean it will continue to and the consequences to your body could be very difficult to undo.

There is no diet as impressive as the one that mother nature sets for us, no google search quiet as clever at constructing a meal plan as she is. If you don’t really know what you are doing, and you don’t really understand the power of eating the right foods – real food – then be open to learning from someone who does.

I hope you learned something from this post. I appreciate your feedback and looking forward to hearing from you in the discussions below.

P.S. Yes I know the fad diet is eat 5 days and starve yourself for 2 days, but really, does that make it any less absurd?

Sending love from Sydney

-Maria

I wanted to start off by apologizing for the hiatus I have taken.  After the death of a family member my desire to write diminished, and then I got caught up with life, trying to survive by myself in a whole new hemisphere – but I have landed on my feet now and viola, I am inspired to write.

I left in the middle of a series of posts about food cravings.  You might recall me, justifiably, calling your brain a selfish bitch.  This post is about how the tiny ecosystem in your gut might also be contributing.

Before you put me in a stray-jacket for suggesting that singled-celled organisms might be controlling your thoughts, and you protest “They can’t do that!” let me tell you a few things they can do…

Evolve

While your genetic code takes a human lifetime to be passed down to the next generation, these tiny microbes only take hours.  Their ability to reproduce so fast also increases their opportunities to evolve as rapidly as our external environment is changing.  For millions of years they have been co-evolving alongside animals, just as they are continuing to do on us – their survival is partly dependant on us and they also return the favour.

When one of these critters living on our bodies does something that we like or that we feel benefits us, we call them ‘good bacteria’ and when they do something we don’t like or cause our bodies to respond in an undesirable manner, we call them ‘bad bacteria’.

What are a few things they do that we like and don’t like?

Well for starters, they can help us digest our food.

How much impact can they possibly make on digestion?  Well cows – who eat a grass diet – don’t actually have much of an ability to get any nutrition from the grass on their own.  Instead, they depend on the bugs living in their four-chambered stomach, to produce the enzymes they need to digest this high-fibre diet.  I know what you are thinking, “but we aren’t cows” and while that’s a fantastic observation, just know that they do a similar thing for us.

Synthesize Vitamins

We’ve known for a long time now that the bacteria in our gut also produce vitamins essential to our health.  For example, vitamin k which is a nutrient needed for blood clotting is produced by our bacteria in our gut. Without this vitamin you could bleed to death from a tiny cut, and there is increasing attention towards the idea that a lack of it may be linked to colitis.  So digesting our food and producing vitamins we need, so far these pests aren’t so bad.

Until of course you’re standing at the check-out aisle flirting with the hottest human you’ve ever seen–you can’t even believe your luck. Then suddenly, oh no is that gas? Damn it, you knew you shouldn’t have had that milk in your latte this morning!  As a bead of sweat drips down your face you think, “maybe I can hoooold…” oh there it goes, and it’s a stinker.  The smell wafts through the store, while all eyes turn on you, you look back and your future husband has already b-lined it straight out the door and into his car where he is safe from your obnoxious fumes.  You can thank your gut bacteria for that chemical warfare too.

Besides toxic chemicals, they can release hormones.  Hormones are the power chemicals that lead to all kinds of reactions within the body. Even our ability to feel an emotion is governed by hormones; dopamine makes you feel happy and motivated; serotonin can lead to euphoria and reduced appetite; and of course there are others such as the hormone leptin, which is released by the lining of your stomach when your stomach has been filled.  Leptin travels to your brain signalling that you are full and you should stop eating. Without leptin you would never feel satisfied, you would continue to eat everything within site.  To complicate matters a little bit, it’s now known that bacteria can interfere with hormones, one of those said hormones being leptin. Uh oh

Thousands of different species inhabiting your body and calling it their home, while they are all fighting for the greater portion of real estate and for their chance to dominate.  Their desire to let each other cross borders seems to be even less tolerant than ours.  Each one doing what it takes to survive and reproduce as fast as they can. All these passengers are at an ongoing dinner party, while we are playing the host, they eat what we serve them.  Unfortunately the diet each species needs to thrive are not all alike.  The choices we make at each and every meal determines which species gets a fighting chance and which ones are at a major disadvantage.

When you put together all these facts about these little guys, the notion that they might be influencing your food cravings becomes a little easier to digest.

Ultimately you are in charge though and your food choices matter.  A high fibre plant based diet will lead to greater numbers of some species, while a diet low in fibre and richer in meat sources could lead you to house a whole other group, on the same note a highly refined junk-food diet has the capacity to sway the power towards a whole other group all together.  It is likely that the foods you are a custom to eating are the exact foods the predominate species in your gut need to continue to survive.  You can trust me when I say that for billions of years if bacteria have shown us one thing at all, it is that they will do absolutely whatever they need to do to survive.  These microbes are under no moral obligations to play fair, and the fact that you want to get beach body ready ranks a whooping no where on their priority list.

Moral of the story?

Play it safe and eat real food, it shows that over time, you actually start to prefer this lifestyle and your body learns to adapt to crave these foods.

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and much as I enjoyed writing it.  Comments shares and likes are very appreciated and the feedback, positive or negative, helps me determine what more I should share.

-Maria

 

 

Being a Nutritionist can sometimes be incredibly frustrating, especially when it comes to the subject of shedding weight.  When passing suggestions to people, I often get cut off before I can offer any guidance.  “I already know what I need to do” they often say, generally followed with an “I just have to do it.”

Okay honestly, I am aware that you know what to do…Everyone and their dog knows that if you quit eating lollies and you start eating kale, then you are likely to shed weight.  What it takes to lose the love handles is really no secret.  Those who state that they already know what to do are often no different than the vast majority.

I have also never heard anyone say to me, “Starting Monday morning I am going to start being as unhealthy as possible.  I am going to do whatever it takes to quit the gym, I’m going to hire a trainer and he is going to force me to binge eat on fast food, ice cream and chips.”  I think then that it is fairly safe to assume that the masses want to be fitter and healthier.  So, if we all want to be in great shape and we already know what it takes to be healthier, why then aren’t we all successfully doing it?

The answer is not in the what, but in the why.

Knowing what not to eat doesn’t address or defeat the most deliciously evil part of the battle – the insidious food cravings!

The next 3 posts are meant to help you understand why we all have so much trouble doing what we know we need to do, sprinkled with a few suggestions on what may make it easier to accomplish it.

Here are among the top 3 reasons why food cravings can be so powerful.

1.  Your brain is a selfish bitch

2. The yeasty beasties

3. You don’t really know what to do and you’re only making your problems worse by causing mineral deficiencies

 

Your brain is a selfish bitch

During fasting or starvation all of the organs in your body will make adjustments to conserve energy – they can actually shrink in size (40%) to adapt to the current situation – except for your brain.  The brain is the most demanding organ of the body. It puts its needs first and serves itself first.  The brain’s main source of fuel is glucose (sugar), and it also happens to be the primary consumer of glucose.  At only 2% of the total body weight, the brain uses a whooping 25% of the body’s energy, give or take about 500kcal/day.

Moreover, the brain doesn’t have much of an energy storing system, for that, it depends on the body.  This is referred to as “energy on demand”. When the brain needs energy and the blood stores are low, it takes it from the energy stores (fat stores) of the body, turning the fat into glucose and using it as fuel…it’s genius really.  When the body’s stores eventually run out, it will demand it from the environment (food).  There can be a glitch in this system if there is a defect in the control systems of the brain: extreme stress, advertising from sweets, and conditioning of eating behaviour, can be among the factors leading to these defects. So instead of using first the body’s energy store for glucose, it demands it directly from food. This surplus of energy can accumulate, leading to increased fat store in the body, but your selfish brain doesn’t mind because it is temporarily happy,  albeit a bitch! This phenomenon is known as “The Selfish Brain Theory”

If you have satisfied your low blood sugar with lollies then you have given your subconscious mind positive reinforcement that these foods will relatively quickly give your brain what it wants. Each time you repeat this behaviour you strengthen the synaptic connections in your brain, turning binge eating into a wickedly powerful and dangerously impulsive habit, leaving even the strongest mind feeling like a hopeless prisoner who repeatedly surrenders their conscious mind’s goals and needs.

You may say, but I don’t crave sugar, I lean toward salty or savoury.  Don’t fool yourself, even those who think they aren’t addicted to sugar often are.  Try going off sugar for a week – no sweeteners, including honey – and tell me that you aren’t addicted.  Nonetheless, if your cravings tend to be for salty or savoury things then this is still largely in part due to the selfish brain theory.

The brain gets its nutrients from the blood, passing the blood brain barrier via a special insulin-independent transport system.  When your blood pressure gets low, the blood flow to your brain decreases.  This makes your selfish brain very angry >:(.   It has very cleverly learned from past experience that where salt goes water goes. In other words the salt pulls fluid into your blood vessels, expanding your blood, making it easier for your heart to pump blood to your brain.  Savvy your little brain is.  Again, every time you repeat this behaviour you reinforce your brain to behave in this manner.   It’s like coddling a screaming child, it might seem like a great idea at the time, but often in long term it reveals to be a very bad choice.

Here’s the kicker, low blood pressure is often caused by a sugar crash, whether it be induced by caffeine, lollies or simply a heavy carbohydrate meal. This is why sweet cravings are often followed by ravenous salt cravings…your brain knows what’s coming.  In some instances it gets really sly and demands both at the same time.  Next thing you know you are eating ice cream straight out the tub only to takes breaks to shove a handful of pretzels down your face.

So what to do?

1.  Don’t panic and don’t beat yourself up over it!  Blame, shame, guilt and anger only give way to comfort eating, turning your “treat” into a guilty pleasure.  I swear, we were all doomed since the introduction of the word “treat”.

Anytime you have one of these negative thoughts you release a neurotransmitter that allows you to feel that thought.  Repeating that thought over and over in your mind repeats the release of the neurotransmitter in brain.  Overtime, you can cause a self-induced chemical imbalance in your brain.

Ever wonder why you don’t emotional eat when you are happy?  Because happy thoughts release the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin is an appetite suppressant.  Anyone who has ever sampled street drugs that artificially raise serotonin levels – such as ecstasy or MDMA – can testify how powerful the appetite-suppressant effects of serotonin can be.

Instead call friends, do yoga, have sex, smile, watch a comedy, take a bath, or do anything that works for you.  Write down a list of the things that make you happy:  raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, anything but more eating!

I work around food all day long, when something doesn’t always go my way, I mitigate stress-eating by having a quick chat with a co-worker who thinks my sarcastic bitchy humour is actually funny.  She laughs at everything I say, which makes me happy and then I go merrily about my day.  Do whatever works for you.

2. Don’t let your blood glucose levels drop to dangerous levels.  If you are trying to adopt new eating habits then make sure you are always prepared with a wholesome meal that is ready to eat.  Don’t get caught with low blood sugar and nothing healthy that’s ready to go.  You will be doomed in this case.  Rarely does willpower stand a chance against low blood sugar.

Caffiene, heavy carbohydrate meals and stress can lead to fluctuating hyper and hypoglycaemia. Do what it takes to reduce these, and for god sakes don’t start your day with sugar!  I explain the reason for this a bit more throughly in a past post “Say No to Crack”

3. Fruit is a great way to quickly raise blood sugar.  If you aren’t eating fruit right now because you are on a special diet then try a spoon full of raw coconut oil.  Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid that can be converted very quickly by your liver into energy.

For salt cravings, try bone broth, it works just as efficiently as any salty treat at increasing blood volume, and it’s healthy.

4. Don’t keep garbage in the house!  If you are stressed, tired, or hangry, and the lollies are right there staring you dead in the eye, then you will eat them. Why set yourself up for failure?  If your partner isn’t on board with your food-revolution, and he or she makes that clear by asking why they can’t have treats around the house because you have a problem, then refrain from punching them straight in the mouth, and perhaps just try changing the location of the sweets.  Breaking patterns is key!  Replace everything that was in your usual junk filled pantry with healthy alternatives, encouraging notes, or pictures of your goals.

5. Chew your food!   Chewing your food thoroughly before you swallow is incredibly underrated.  The first stage of digestion happens in your mouth.  Chewing not only helps break down the food while it is in your mouth, but it also sends signals to your stomach that food is coming. These signals allow your stomach to release the appropriate enzymes it needs in order digest that particular food.   Your body is amazing!  Failing to chew slows down the digestive processes.  Selfish brain doesn’t have the patience for slow, don’t make it angry.

And finally of course there is exercise, which amazing for everything and deserves a whole blog on it’s own.

This post was Part 1 on how to outsmart food cravings.  If you liked it then help me reach more people by sharing.   Feedback is always appreciated!  Feel free to comment straight on the blog rather than the facebook page, as it opens up the conversation to everyone.   Very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

Craving chocolate?

DSC_8316-32I have had a bit of a chocolate craving the last few days, but I do my best to avoid store bought chocolate, even most retail raw/paleo options.  Often the retail options have ingredients like soy lecithin or agave, which sure, they qualify as “raw” but don’t translate to healthy. So, after dinner tonight I felt inspired to get in the kitchen and make my own Paleo/Raw Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bars.   As soon as this little treat was ready I got into it.   I wasn’t planning on posting two recipes in a row on the blog, but these were so good I just couldn’t resist posting them straight away!

This guilt-free pleasure was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy.

Note: When I say guilt-free, I mean that when it is used sparingly as a treat.  Even raw desserts should be consumed in moderation.

I found everything I needed to make this recipe at Sprout Wholefood Grocer in Naremburn, but most organic shops should have what you need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cacao butter (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil (melted)
  • 2-3 tablespoons raw maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw vanilla bean powder
  • 6 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
  • DSC_8224-263/4 cup of dried berry and activated nut mixture (I used shredded coconut, goji berries, raisins, pecans, cashews and almonds–because that’s what I had around the house– I also chopped up the nuts into small pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Note to melt the cacao butter: bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan (about 1/4 full) remove from heat and place cacao butter in a heat proof bowl, place the bowl that has the cacao butter in it into the hot water sauce pan.   Stir until it melts, then remove it from the heat so the temperature comes back down.  Make sure you do not get any water in to the cacao butter.

Directions:

Once cacao butter is melted, add coconut oil, and maple syrup till they all dissolve.   Then add the vanilla bean and cacao powder–one tablespoon at a time, mixing between each tablespoon. Place the bowl back into the hot water sauce pan, to heat it up again.  Then whisk until it’s smooth and doesn’t look grainy.  Remove the bowl from the heat again and add the DSC_8313-31fruit and nut mixture, stirring until combined.  Let your chocolate mixture sit at room temperature for about 10 mins. Meanwhile, line a 9 inch tray with parchment paper.   Pour the liquid chocolate mixture on your tray.  Sprinkle sea salt over your chocolate. Finally put it in the freezer for one hour, or the fridge for at least two hours.  Break your chocolate bark into pieces as large or as small as your heart desires and serve.

 

You can store your leftover chocolate in a airtight container in your fridge for quite some time. Enjoy!

If you try this recipe, then please don’t forget to keep me posted on how it goes.

DSC_8320-33

Paleo/Raw Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bark

 

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

 

 

All my dairy-free readers are going to fall in love with this recipe.   Every time I make this cashew cream non-cheese and let someone have a taste, the first word to come out of their mouth is YUM!    I often eat this with raw crackers (recipe to come) or spread it on some wild smoked salmon…Mmmm my mouth is literally watering just thinking about it!

DSC_8111-26-2

Lemon & Dill Cashew Cream Non-Cheese (Raw, GF, DF, Vegan)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked for two hours)

Juice of one lemon

3 large cloves garlic (use 4 if the cloves are small)

4 tablespoons of fresh dill chopped

1 chive, thinly sliced (I only use the light green part, so I use 2 chives)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup filtered water

 

Directions:

To soak the cashews, place them in a medium bowl with water.   The water should be about 1-2 inches above the top of the cashews.
Drain cashews after two hours and place all of the ingredients, except the 1/3 cup filtered water, in a food processor or high speed blender (I prefer using a processor for this particular recipe, but a blender works well too).  Slowly increase the speed and blend for about 1 minute.  With a spatula, scrap down the sides, pour in the filtered water and blend for another few minutes.   Pour contents in a mason jar with a tight lid, and store in the fridge for 12-14 hours to thicken and then it’s ready to eat.   This recipe can be stored in the fridge for about a week.

Bon appetite!

-Maria

Let’s face it, taking responsibility for your health, initially, can feel painful. It requires withdrawal from your favourite foods; time away from lounging on the couch and watching the bachelor (admit it you watch it); it often means you have to learn to pre-plan meals and perhaps adopt the habit of carrying a snack-pack full of celery (yummy) just in case hunger strikes at an inopportune time or place. Then of course, there is that social factor. It’s not uncommon for those around you to so generously provide you with ample opportunities to display that willpower you have been so actively exercising. It’s not bad enough that you have to convince your brain that you are enjoying that celery as much as your co-worker is enjoying that glazed donut they are stuffing down their face. It took a lot of self reflection to come to a place in life where being called a “rabbit” for eating salad didn’t retard my progress by making me feel a sense of shame. By the way, if you would take great offence if someone referred to you as a slightly larger, pink barn-yard animal with a snout and curly tail, then chances are that that person doesn’t appreciate being labelled as a “rabbit’ or any other barn-yard animal either–just saying.

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You will feel very differently about these after you’ve read this post.

Perhaps my all time favourite is when, while stuffing their face with that donut, one says “Well, I’d rather eat this and die happy.” A brief moment of deep panic sets in as you fear you may not have your priorities straight. Not only is Mr. Donut-Face more up-to-date with today’s important current events–like who the bachelor picked–but he has also somehow convinced you that you are going to wither down to the size of a rabbit and may die a miserable old hag! Oh, ya “I’d rather die happy” why didn’t I think of that? Well, if eating whatever your heart desires makes you happy, then who can argue with that? Oh wait… that’s right, I can!

Unless you are planning on dying in the next few minutes with that said donut in your hands, then you will not die any happier than the person who learned to say no to instant gratification. In actuality, if your goal at the end of your life is to in fact “die happy”, then you need to very carefully step away from the donut and arm yourself with a few new habits instead.

5 Ways to Die Happier

#1.

We are all aware that over-consumption of sugar is a primary factor in developing type 2 (insulin resistance) diabetes. You may also know that type 2 diabetes can rob you of many of the joys in life, for example sight or mobility. Diabetes can ultimately lead to blurred vision, nerve damage and loss of feeling in your feet, but what many of us aren’t aware of is that researchers have known for some time that there is a strong link between type 2 diabetes and dementia. The research estimates that you are 125% more likely to become demented in your later years if you have diabetes. I don’t know about you, but I would assume that it would be pretty hard to die happy if you can’t remember any of the things in life you are happy about.

The old adage “Use it or lose it” very much applies to your brain. Continually using your brain and learning new things has proven to keep your mind sharp well into your older years. Take advantage and double up by educating yourself on what it truly takes to live longer and happier starting here, with 4 more facts you didn’t know about your brain and body.

#2.

In a past post, “Say No to Crack” I explain how a high sugar diet leads to increased abdominal fat. Studies show that those with increased abdominal fat are at greater risk of developing heart disease. While I have been fortunate enough to have never had to experience watching someone die of a heart attack, I’d would say it’s probably fairly safe to assume that they didn’t die smiling. People with belly fat tend to have higher levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which would indicate that not only are they no happier, but they are actually more stressed out.

The good news is that a whole-food, high fibre diet, rich in essential fatty acids can actually decrease your risk of developing heart disease.

#3.

The nutrients you get from your diet are what your brain needs to make “happy hormones” like serotonin or dopamine. Nutrient deficiencies can mean that your brain literally cannot produce the chemicals that evoke good feelings. Even one missing nutrient can pose a threat. It’s kind of like baking, you leave one thing out and the whole recipe is write-off. You may say “Can I eat a salad and then eat the donut?” The truth is…not really. Because refined foods are stripped of their nutrients, they can actually steal from your body the nutrients they need to be metabolized. Many of the nutrients missing in refined sugar–that it then loots from your body–are the exact nutrients your brain would need to make these pleasure inducing chemicals.

You can increase absorption and assimilation of nutrients by working on digestive health. Eliminating refined or processed foods; eating a variety of whole-foods; drinking plenty of water between meals; thoroughly chewing your meals; eating only when you are actually hungry (not bored, craving or overeating); and keeping a peaceful state mind at meal time, are some of the most effective ways to support the digestive system, making it easier to obtain adequate levels of nutrition for all your body’s biochemical processes.

#4.

The reason why one might initially feel happy when they eat sugar is largely because sugar causes large amounts of dopamine to be released in your brain. When large quantities are released at once–or all day long for that matter–the dopamine receptors in your brain then down-regulate. Fewer dopamine receptors means, your brain needs to release even more of this hormone than it would regularly need to, just to feel normal. The result is you feel depressed, until of course, you get your next hit. Just like any highly addictive pleasure-inducing substance, overtime you need more and more, not only to feel the same high, but simply just to feel normal.

Exercise is a healthy and effective way of making sure your brain releases safe levels of these pleasure-inducing endorphins. In addition, physical exercise provides your brain with the neurochemistry that adds new neurons in the area of your brain that is paramount to your memory and attention–which can help you with #1 and #5 ways to die happier.

#5.

In order to get up off the couch and want to exercise, you need motivation. How does one feel motivated? Oh ya, that would be dopamine again. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that regulates motivation. So in other words, no dopamine = no motivation. This is why depressed individuals tend to have little desire to even get up out of bed in the morning. To add fuel to the fire, there are two sides to your prefrontal cortex in the brain (right and left). Recent studies have shown that people who are generally enthusiastic about life and have a positive outlook, also tend to have increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex–this area of the brain is activated when we are focused and goal oriented. On the flip side, those who lean towards a depressive state, or heightened anxiety, have increased activity in the right prefrontal cortex–which is the area responsible for daydreaming and ruminating. Lack of motivation to do anything, makes it highly likely that you are not spending much time using the left prefrontal cortex and spending too much time using the right prefrontal cortex, exasperating and already miserable state.

Luckily, there is something that can be done about this. It has be proven, that you can change your emotional set point by simply making an effort to practice activities that require presence and focused attention. You can simply start by writing down your goals, and then taking action steps towards them. It makes it much less of an uphill battle if you do what truly inspires you. Overtime, this practice rewires your brain and eventually makes it easier to adopt the new habit of acting with purpose, thus increasing activity in the left PFC, leading to a generally more positive outlook and passion for life.

So there you have it, when it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss. I’m no human happy calculator, but more sickness, less memory, more belly fat, more stress, less motivation and purpose doesn’t add up to more happiness to me.

I do realize that this was a long post, as it also took a lot of time and effort to write it, but I did it because I think there is no worse fate than being trapped in a miserable body. If you would agree, then try implementing these 5 things, and join me in my quest to die happy.

Sending love and happy vibes from Sydney.
-Maria

 

Raw Coconut/Almond  Yogurt
Raw Coconut Almond Yogurt

I was excited to share this recipe with you guys, because I got really good feedback on the granola recipe I posted a week or so ago.  This yogurt goes really well with the granola and it’s such a great intro to raw “cooking”.  This yogurt is so easy to make it’s kind of a joke.

Since I have learned how to make this yogurt I have made a slue of different raw salad dressings, dips, pesto pizza sauce and even frozen yogurt (recipes still to come) using this yogurt as a base.

Ingredients

2 cups of young thai coconut meat OR 2 two cups of soaked raw almonds (soaked for 24 hours) OR one cup of each

One cup of coconut water (bit more or less depending on how thick you want it)

1/2 teaspoon probiotic blend powder or 2 probiotic capsules (open the capsules and just use the powder)

Directions

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Note: if you don’t own a vitamix or blendtec blender then you may NOT want to use the almonds.  I also peel my almonds after they have been soaked, but it’s not imperative.

Pour mixture into a container that has a lid, but don’t put the lid on just yet. Cover the yogurt with paper towel and let it sit out for 4-6 hours (depending on the temperature and humidity of your room)  until the probiotics start to activate and make the yogurt tangy. On hot humid days 4 hours should be sufficient and cold days you will need the whole 6 hours. You can taste it at 4 hours and if it’s really tangy like yogurt and it has thickened, then it’s likely ready.  Cover with a lid and put it in the fridge.

This delicious yogurt should be good for a few days in the fridge.

Notes:

If you don’t like the bits of almond skin in there then you can drain the yogurt through a cheese cloth.

To make the next batch you do not need more probiotics, a spoonful of the previous yogurt will be enough to culture the new batch. When you do this you will not need to let it sit out for the whole 6 hours. 4 hours should be enough time.

If your yogurt starts to go pink then you have left it out for too long and you should start over. DO NOT EAT PINK YOGURT PLEASE!

Good luck with this recipe and keep me posted on how your yogurt turns out.

Thanks for reading!

-Maria

Ever since I was a young girl I took my big sister’s words as gold.  If she rejected an idea then I followed suit. If she approved of something, then there was a good chance I would do it.  I have never gone ahead and done something that big sis’ disapproved of…until now.   My sister, who doesn’t even have a Facebook account, can’t fathom why anyone would desire to put it all out there and start a blog.   In fact, most of my friends and family who see how much I have on my plate at the present time, are a bit confused at my commitment to write.

This blog, like all the other crazy things I do, is centred around my great desire to maintain my own health and vitality.

IMG_6988I really enjoy writing, and feel more purposeful when I happened to write about the things in life that I am most passionate about.  As soon I log onto my blog and tap away at my keyboard, nothing else seems to matter, time stops, I become present and focused, a tranquility fills my mind and a calmness sweeps into my space.  This is the state where creativity lies.

The human body has always fascinated me, but I think I was the most enamoured by our design when I first learned about the direct link between creativity and healing.

I’ll never forget the day where I first grasped this information about the Autonomic Nervous System.  Basically, that there are two parts; our Sympathetic Nervous System (flight or flight); and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and relaxation).   In times of stress or crisis, we release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones increase our heart-rate, heighten our senses, raise our blood sugar, and allow us to become alert in preparation for a fight or flight from danger.   Our Parasympathetic Nervous System is where our body repairs itself, digestion takes place, and where the immune and reproductive systems kick in.   The two nervous systems work independently of each other.  In other words, you cannot be in both systems simultaneously.   Either you are in perceived danger and your body is in a reactive state, prepared for battle, or you are healing.   At no time is your body able to do both.  This is because our digestion, immunity, reproductive system, growth and repair etc. are extremely metabolically expensive.  Our cleverly designed little bodies know that during a threat, these systems are not critical to our survival, and rather the energy needs to be saved for let’s say, to run from a sabre tooth tiger, or perhaps a tsunami.

Sure, it’s not often we have to run from a sabre tooth tiger these days (thank god), but any perceived threat or stress will kick your body into fight or flight.   Constant worry, anxiety, fear of the future, stressful jobs, break-ups and so on, keep our bodies in a perpetual state of fight or flight.   That is not what our stress response was designed for.  It was meant to assist us in a short brush with danger.  Once we either out ran the sabre tooth, or we somehow managed to kill it with our bare hands, we would then lay under a tree somewhere and relax.   This continual state of emergency we tend to currently live in, means we are not giving our bodies enough time in PNS or rest and relaxation.   Even when we do sit down and rest, we have a hard time turning our mind away from our crisis, so we remain under distress.

Okay, so what the hell does that have to do with me writing?

I only recently learned that creativity is only possible when you are in PNS.  That means if you are doing something you love, something that requires no motivation, but simply inspiration, where hours can just pass by and you have completely lost your sense of time, then you have forced your brain to switch into a place where you are literally healing.   This is why you might hear someone say that playing an instrument feels therapeutic to them…that is because it actually is!

Starting this blog required me to push through a lot of insecurities, as it puts me at greater risk of being judged or ridiculed.  It goes against the advice of the person who’s opinion means the most to me.  As someone who used her English class in high school as more of a spare block than anything else, it was with great difficulty that I came to the idea that I had any right to start a blog.   But, once I learned the benefit of abandoning all those worries and just doing what I loved, as it relates to my wellbeing, then it became a paramount part of my wellness routine, just the same as exercising, eating well and positive thinking.

You may say that you are not creative, but it’s not true.  Any activity that you get lost in: cooking, painting, gardening, etc.  are spaces where you are healing.   Whatever the belief you have that limits you from doing something that inspires you, it’s time to retire it, as those limiting beliefs are literally killing you.

When the voice and the vision on the inside become louder and more profound than the opinions expressed on the outside, then you have began to master your life.

-Dr Demartini

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Hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.   Shares, follows and likes really give me the courage to keep going and are greatly appreciated.

Sending love from Sydney

-Maria

 

 

Whole Food Granola--Refined sugar free, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free

Whole Food Granola–Refined sugar free, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free

In my series of 5 Ideas That Completely Changed the Way I Eat, the first idea “Say No to Crack“, was about making better choices at breakfast time, so I thought it would be appropriate that my first recipe on the blog be one of that can help with that choice.

I fell in love with this granola when I went gluten-free and dairy-free 3 years ago.   The great thing about this recipe is that I used absolutely no refined sugar!

Listed under “ingredients” are the ones I used in the picture, but to add variety to my routine, I often substitute some of the nuts and seeds.    If you have a nut allergy then you can use buckwheat, and your choice of seeds.  This recipe can also be made raw, but since I am currently travelling and my food dehydrator is half-way across world, I only have times for cooking.

Ingredients:

1 cup of raw organic sliced almonds (or any other nut of your choice)

1 cup of raw organic walnut pieces (or any other nut of your choice)

1/2 raw organic pumpkin seed (or any seed of your choice)

1/2 raw organic sunflower seed (or any seed of your choice)

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

A generous amount of cinnamon (this depends on your taste)

1/2 cup of pitted Medjool dates

2 teaspoons water

2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)

1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees celsius. Grease a large baking sheet.

In a blender or food processor, mix dates and water until it forms a paste. In a medium mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Add the date and water mixture to the nut mixture. Make sure all the nuts and seeds are well coated with the honey and coconut oil (you may need to add a bit more honey or maple syrup, depending on the nuts you used).

Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 25 mins. With a spatula, mix and flip the granola mixture and bake for another 25-35 minutes. Turn off oven and let the granola sit in the warm oven for 2 hours.

dsc_4218Serve as a cereal with sliced or dried fruit, and coconut or almond milk, or just eat on its own as a tasty treat.  Store the granola in your fridge for up to a week.

For a more salty taste you can add 1 teaspoon of salt before baking.

Can’t wait to hear your feedback on this one. If you are enjoying these recipes and posts, then please don’t forget to share them.

Thanks for reading!

-Maria

Not sold?

How about if I very cleverly package it with the word “Organic” on it?  “Vegan”? “Gluten-Free”? “Reduces Appetite”? “No Sugar Added”? Oh oh, I know… “Fat-Free”!

We are all taught, from a young age, that heroin–no matter where you buy it, how much it costs, and how cleverly it is packaged–is garbage.   When it comes to what we eat, we have a harder time distinguishing between what is healthy, and what is garbage.

As a general rule, if you would be extremely concerned if your dog got into it, and ate it, then you probably shouldn’t be feeding it to your kids either.  It might also be a good idea for you to pass on it too.  All jokes aside, thanks to brilliant marketing, it is getting harder and harder to know how to properly read a food label, and then accurately assess if it’s nutritious, or toxic.

For the most part, real food is not preserved in a package,  which eliminates the space to write these tricky little labels, or a list of ingredients.   Real foods (healthy foods), have a short shelf life; are one ingredient long; can’t be stored in a cardboard box in your pantry for months; and are unrefined, whole-foods.  Thus, if you are reading a label, then that is a good sign, that it does not qualify as healthy.

That said, in this day, packaged foods are so popular for a reason.  They are convenient, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even I have some packaged foods in my cupboard at this very moment.  When I buy these foods, I read the labels, and do my best to determine which of the options, in my opinion, is less toxic to my body.  Words like “natural” or “calories” have little to do with my decision. To me, it’s all about the quality and quantity of the actual ingredients.  This post, which is #5 out of 5 Simple Ideas That Completely Changed the Way I Eat, is meant to help make reading these labels, a little less deceiving.

Each food in it’s natural unrefined state, contains in that food, all the nutrients needed to properly metabolize it.   For example, raw sugar cane, before separated into two parts–refined white sugar and blackstrap molasses–can actually be considered healthy.  Our body recognizes it; can metabolize it; and readily obtain nutrients from it.   White sugar is devoid of it’s nutrients, so in order to digest it, it must steal from your body all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids required to metabolize it.   Furthermore, refined sugar is robbed of it’s fibre.   Fibre is good because it slows down the rate at which a food is digested.  This is important because it reduces the likelihood that the sugar will be released rapidly into your bloodstream–causing a spike in blood sugar and insulin (the fat storing, stress hormone) release.   My top three choices for added sweeteners are, dates (a whole food), maple syrup (often not raw) and honey (not vegan), simply because consuming these doesn’t mean my body has to be pillaged of it’s own nutrients in order to digest it.

Then there is also the “5 ingredients or less” rule. The rule is…don’t buy anything that contains more than five ingredients.   Again, 5 ingredients or less doesn’t classify it as healthy, but I do think it’s a good idea to avoid most products that have more than 5 ingredients in it.    Greater number of ingredients can mean more processing, and greater toxic load.   Especially, if it sounds like one or more of those said ingredients were made in a laboratory.

One of these things just doesn’t belong here. Can you guess what it is?

A-is for Apple

B-is for Brazil Nut

C-is for Calcium Caseinate

And what about here?
Organic Limes

Organic Limes

 

20 Litres of Gluten-Free, Cholesterol-Free, Halal, Refined Vegetable Oil.

20 Litres of Gluten-Free, Cholesterol-Free, Halal, Natural Source of Omega 3, Refined Vegetable Oil.

 

Organic Berries

Organic Berries

Let’s start giving ourselves more credit… Identifying healthy, is this easy.    Go with your gut, not a fancy label.   While it’s true, when buying produce organic is often a better choice, that doesn’t apply to everything.   Don’t be a sucker for marketing, fancy brown paper bags, and expensive price tags.  A creative campaign never trumps the extraordinary intelligence of Mother Nature.

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

 

 

 

 

 

“A quality life demands quality questions”  -Dr. John Demartini

…as does a quality diet.

This post is part 4 of 5 simple idea’s that changed the way I eat.

In part 1, “Say no to Crack!” I touched on blood sugar as it relates to food and sugar cravings.  The lower your blood sugar, the more your brain will signal for the quickest hit of sugar, in the largest quantity you could imagine.

Anyone ever tell you “your eyes are bigger than your head”?

Well, that also has a large part to do with where your head is at when you sit down to eat. Let’s say, you have an extra stressful day, maybe work really sucked, or the boss was exceptionally assy that day. Whatever the threat you perceive to your survival in the near future–whether it be a legitimate fear/threat or not–your body will react by wanting to store some energy for it.

How does your body store energy?

Through storing fat.

What’s the quickest way to store fat?

Eat excessive quantities of fat and sugar… STAT!

A large portion of food cravings are governed by these factors.    In this day and age, the majority us rarely need all this superfluous body fat.  Fact is, most of us can actually do with a lot less of it…I’m just saying.

Case and point–that time we all stuffed our basements with 8000 cans of beans for that whole Y2K fiasco.

So then, why in this state, would we think it’s a good idea to stand in front of an open fridge, or pick up a menu and ask ourselves, “What do I FEEL like eating?”

Who was the genius who came up with that question?

Duh, I feel like eat junk food right now.  Here’s an idea, how about I ask myself a question that is more conducive to my overall physical, mental and emotional life goals. “How do I want to feel after I eat this?”  or, “What can I eat that might help me reach my current health goal?” perhaps, “Have I had enough fibre? protein? or healthy fats today?”  or even, “What can I use to decorate my plate?”

Depending on how assy your boss was that day, the answer to, “What do I feel like eating?” could be the insidious combination of a chocolate bar, a bag of chips, a can of pop, and a donut. Ooh, or ice cream–that perfect hit of fat and sugar in one deliciously evil, creamy little blend.

I love ice cream, but I always regret ice cream :(.  I would have been better off eating all those 8000 cans of beans that are stored in the basement.   Have you ever regretted eating junk food and storing energy?

How about a salad…have you ever regretted a salad?

I have never heard anyone say, “Oh god, I feel disgusting, I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that damn salad, I was just craving it soooo badly!”

Who cares what you FEEL like eating, you don’t always feel like eating a salad, but you NEED a salad more than a chocolate bar…every time!

My wish, for all of you who read this post is, that from this day forward, every single time you ask yourself that question — “What do I feel like eating”–this post will pop into your head, the words will haunt you, and you at least some of the time, change the quality of your question, which has the impact to change the quality of your diet.

Sending love from Sydney,

Maria

Oh and “assy” is a word, it’s just not in the dictionary, yet 🙂