COCONUT OIL

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Coconut oil is the most popularly used product in my house – it really defines the term multi-purpose. I prepare everything with it from banana cake, to stir-fry veges, to roast chicken, to scrambled eggs, to salmon. I also use it daily to remove my eye makeup, as a body moisturiser and even for brushing my teeth! Quality is of utmost importance – go for organic unrefined, virgin coconut oil. There are many companies selling hydrogenated coconut oil where heat and solvent chemicals like aluminum and nickel are used to harden the oil. YUCK! This process also destroys many of its naturally occurring goodies such as vitamin E, carotene and tocotrienols… so it’s totally not worth scrimping on quality.

I was initially dubious about coconut oil after falling victim to all the hysteria out there about how terrible it is because of its high saturated fat content (92%). For decades we have received so much misinformation about high cholesterol fats like coconut oil, butter and animal fat – that they will make us gain weight, clog our arteries, negatively affect our cholesterol and put us in a high-risk heart attack zone. It’s worth noting that a lot of the commercially-funded research that espoused these “facts” has helped to create an enormously profitable low-fat food industry. Product sales for low-fat dairy products and toxic margarine spreads have gone through the roof, yet obesity rates continue to rise…

Fortunately the voice of good science is starting to sing its way to those ears that are seeking more honest and sound health advice. Mother nature has spent millions of years perfecting our beautiful natural fats such as the coconut – she doesn’t have it wrong! Be a little weary of any dietary research that has had backing from commercial industry interests – they have manipulated how and what we eat so dramatically that more changes have happened in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000 years. Our genetics are screaming for us to go back to basics, to eat good quality natural products as close to their whole form as possible.

With so many cells in our bodies being made up of saturated fat, it’s not surprising that coconut oil is instantly recognised and used up by the body. Nothing is more stable for the body than fat. This good quality saturated fat will not make you fat! Sugars play that role beautifully, if you’re wanting such results.

Brain Food
With the dry weight of our brains being made up of 60-80% fat, half of which is saturated fat, it’s no wonder low-fat diets turn people into depressed, anxious, exhausted & angry animals! The fat in coconut oil will not only help sharpen your mind & cognitive functions but also assist in stabilising your mood.

Strong Heart
The fat from coconut oil helps reduce calcium deposits in the arteries and protects the heart. It is the most preferred source of energy for the heart muscle.

Organ Cleaner
The fat from coconut oil is immediately recognised by the liver and therefore used up straight away, aiding in vital processes such as balancing lipid levels in the blood, and protecting against damage to the liver by alcohol and other toxins. In turn it also supports kidney and gall bladder function.

Fat-Burning Energy Giver!
In the Pacific Islands, farmers failed in their attempt to fatten their pigs by feeding them coconut oil. The coconut oil increased metabolism, allowing the pigs to burn more energy that actually helped them lose weight! So for those who crave sugar for energy, struggle with diabetes-related issues or are struggling with stubborn belly fat, coconut oil is a great source of instant energy that also helps to balance blood sugar and insulin control.

Bacteria Balancer
If you suffer from any imbalanced gut flora issues like candida, thrush, abnormal parasites or fungal rashes, the lauric acid in coconut oil (eaten or applied topically) has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties to help balance out these baddies. Lauric acid, of course, is the naturally occurring infection fighter in human breast milk.

Bone-Strengthener
I was also amazed to learn that coconut oil works wonders for your teeth and bones, especially as it encourages mineral absorption. Go on – chuck out your chemical-laden toothpaste and brush your teeth with this instead!

High Heater
Like butter, animal fats and lard, coconut oil is not altered when heated. This means it is a great choice for any type of cooking, frying or baking. Unfortunately the compounds in plant oils are so precious they are immediately altered and destroyed when heated. Heating olive oil for example destroys its vitamin E, beta carotene and chlorophyll and changes its unsaturated fatty acids into harmful trans-fatty acids – essentially making it toxic to our bodies and increasing the likelihood of it being stored as fat. In short – save your (cold-pressed, unrefined) plant oils for things like dips and dressings, and use your coconut oil whenever there’s heat involved!

Magical Moisturiser
So good as a chemical-free moisturiser for all. Perfect for any situation from expectant mums wanting to avoid stretch marks, people suffering from psoriasis/eczema issues, and great for nappy rash too. An added bonus is its ability to help increase sun tolerance and avoid burning

WHERE TO BUY? Health food stores that stock good organic produce
WHAT TYPE? Organic, unrefined virgin coconut oil; it’s by far the best option
WHAT BRAND? I love Tiana seriously one of the best I have come across (and I’ve tried loads!)
HOW MUCH? Consume at least a tablespoon a day (I have around 4)
HOW? Straight on a spoon, in your black unsweetened coffee, in smoothies, in coconut milk hot chocolates, in biscuits & loaves, in scrambled eggs, in fried veges, in vege mash, in crispy chicken thighs, massaged into your skin (great for foot-rubs)… the list goes on!

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SEA SALT ALMOND & COCONUT FUDGE (gluten, grain & dairy free, vegan)

 

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Not only is this fudge so satisfying and easy to make, it’s also free from the usual nasty artery-clogging trans-fats and insulin driving refined sugars that lace ordinary fudge. It’s also a great energy booster as the sweetness of the honey is slow to hit your blood stream thanks to the uber healthy coconut oil. I find almond and vanilla to be sweet so I only use 1 TBSP of honey – the pinch of salt brings out the sweetness too – another handy trick to reduce your sugar intake!

And please, never fear good quality natural fats – the body much prefers to burn fat for fuel over sugar which burns far too quickly and leaves us needing to eat snacks between meals. Eating three meals heavy in fat and vegetables and moderate in protein will see you right! Feel free to punctuate your meal with a couple of pieces of this yummy fudge – this is one sure way to satiate your hunger for the next five or so hours!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 TBSP raw honey
  • A good pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips (optional) I use 100% raw cacao chocolate and break it up into pieces

 

Directions:

Mix the coconut oil, almond butter, vanilla, honey and salt together until well combined (you may need to melt them on the stove on a very low heat if the coconut oil is particularly hard)

Add the desiccated coconut and mix well

Add the chocolate chips and mix lightly

Press the mixture firmly into a paper lined tin

Refrigerate until hardened

Cut into squares and consume!

Enjoy!

 

 

Recipe: SQUASH TOAST WITH ALMOND BUTTER, COCONUT & FRESH BERRIES (gluten, grain, dairy & sugar free, vegan)

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This is such a yummy healthy breakfast or dessert! Quick to prepare and cook, so no reason to choose cheap, nasty, sugar-laden breakfast cereals or prepackaged puddings over this delight!

You can choose winter or summer squash as both are loaded with vitamin C & A, and have a small impact on your blood sugar. Furthermore, cooking the squash in the stable fat options below means the already low starches and sugars are taken slowly into the bloodstream. The reason I’ve chosen to cook the squash in either coconut oil, butter or ghee instead of vegetable oils or margarine spreads is that heating unstable vegetable oils causes havoc on our systems. Not only do oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola increase the likelihood of having fat stored on your body, but they also stimulate an inflammatory response in the body (water retention, painful and stiff joints, thickened arteries, etc). In addition, remember while olive oil is a brilliant vegetable oil, you must avoid using when cooking with high temperatures – stick with the suggestions I’ve listed below:

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Ingredients (serves 1):

1/4 squash (the end without the seeds)

1 TBSP almond butter

1 TBSP coconut oil / ghee /butter

3 TBSP desiccated coconut

handful of blueberries

Pinch of pink salt

Preparation:

Preheat two pans (one small, one large) on a low heat or if you’re grilling switch the grill on to 180 deg

Directions:

Thinly slice into the top end of the squash, as if you were cutting a loaf of bread. Cut as many slices as you feel hungry for (I usually cut around 4 pieces that are around 1/2cm thick).

To the small pan add the desiccated coconut and stirring occasionally toast this for the duration of time you’re frying the squash.

Spread coconut oil on both sides of the squash pieces.

 To the large pan add the squash pieces and turn the heat up to a high medium (or place under the squash pieces under the  oven grill). Fry (or grill) for 5 minutes, then flip the squash pieces over and toast the other side.

Plate the squash toast,  spread generously with almond butter and add a pinch of salt. Then to finish, dress with the toasted desiccated coconut and  blueberries.

Enjoy!

Variations:

A quicker version – pre-cook the squash in hot water for a couple of minutes then pan-fry on a high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Keep the desiccated coconut un-toasted.

A more filling version – substitute berries for sliced banana

A more decadent version – serve with raw cream, coconut cream or yoghurt.

For the carnivores – add 2 rashers of bacon chopped into small pieces and fried until crispy (this is delicious!)

Recipe: CHOCOLATE COCONUT ROUGH (paleo, gluten & dairy-free)

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Having a sweet treat (“because I’ve been so good / worked so hard…”) each day is one of the most difficult habits to break. The major problem with using sweet food as a treat is that it triggers the reward and pleasure systems in our brains, meaning that we associate sweetness with achievement and success.

To help with sugar cravings the best things you can do is eat proper meals – fill up on good quality whole foods such as vegetables, meats, fish, fats, soaked nuts and seeds and whole fruit. Following this you should choose chocolate/cakes/desserts etc that are sweetened with small amounts of any of the following: fruit, dried fruit, raw honey, good quality maple syrup, stevia, coconut palm sugar, rapadura, xylitol or molasses.

You should absolutely avoid cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, poor quality agave and ALL artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin (yes, even in the form of chewing gum). This latter list can send you on a mood roller coaster, increase anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, can deplete your immune system, upset your gut flora, increase blood pressure and increase body fat (especially around the waist). I wrote more about sugar and other sweeteners here – take a look.

With this in mind, I wanted to show how you can create a healthy version of a classic treat: chocolate coconut rough. Using either raw honey or good quality maple syrup alongside good quality fats such as coconut oil and almonds will mean you won’t be bouncing off the walls then crashing an hour later. With this recipe aim to reduce the amount of sweetener each time you make it – notice how quickly you get used to less sweetness when you reduce how much of it you consume.

… and if you really suffer greatly with binging and craving sugar next time you reach for a sweet sit, breathe and contemplate the following questions: 

  • What am I really hungry and craving for?
  • Where do I get my sweetness in life?
  • Does my desire to feel healthy and energised outweigh the need for sweet foods?

And to help you along your way:

  • Sign up with a friend so you can help support each other come off sugar!
  • Get inspired – there are plenty of people online and in real life (like myself) who are here to help inspire and encourage healthy habits
  • Get baking with healthy ingredients! Enjoy and help assimilate your healthy treat with a smile – nourishing thoughts are just as essential as nourishing foods!

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Ingredients (base)

  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut
  • 3/4 cup soaked sultanas (choose chopped up prunes or figs for a lower sugar option)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder/soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg or 2 small eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa

Ingredients (topping, optional)

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup/ honey / rice malt syrup (omit for a lower sugar option, add 1 another TBSP of coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup coconut

Preparation:

Soak the sultanas / dried fruit in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes – this is optional but does help bring more chewy moisture to the mix

Set aside a 24cm round or 20cm square 4cm deep greased or lined baking dish

Pre-heat your oven at 160 deg C

Directions for the base:

Put a small pot on a low heat, add the coconut oil and honey and slowly melt them down. Add the cocoa and stir until smooth

In a bowl add the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg(s). Then add the wet ingredients and mix well.

Firmly press the mixture down firmly into your baking dish

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes

Directions for the topping:

In your small pot on a low heat melt down the coconut oil and maple syrup or honey. Heat to boiling point and simmer gently for about 1min to thicken.

Add the cocoa, vanilla and desiccated coconut

Stir and spread over the cooked base while still warm. Refrigerate or freeze to set icing.

… and enjoy!

Personal tip: I love keeping this in the freezer and taking a piece out 5 mins before I eat it!

OIL PULLING: SWISH FOR YOUR HEALTH!

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Oil pulling is something I have been doing daily for about a year now – as mentioned in my Daily Routine post earlier this week it’s the first thing I do every morning. The results so far have astounded me: I needed no intervention during my last visit to the dentist after not visiting him for well over a year (which is unheard of for me and my teeth!). My teeth are whiter, feel stronger and smoother and my gums are a lot pinker and healthier! There are many other benefits I could attach to oil pulling such as uninterrupted sleep, no sick days, clear ear/nose/throat pathways, better digestion… but they are harder to gauge as I’ve been grain-free for a year which has also brought with it many health benefits. No matter the cause, it’s so easy to do I’m going to keep it up, especially as the long term benefits are huge. So if you fancy it, read on…

What you need:

  • 1 heaped TSP – 1 TBSP cold pressed organic oil  – such as coconut/sesame/sunflower. No need to pre-melt coconut oil, as it will quickly liquefy in the mouth

Method:

  • STEP 1 : Every morning before you eat or even take a sip of water, put 1 TBSP of oil into your mouth and swill it around for at least 15 minutes. Use your tongue and cheeks to help rinse and swish the oil around your mouth and between your teeth. You can do this while having your shower, getting dressed, making your breakfast – the time flies by! Easy multi-tasking!
  • STEP 2: Spit the oil out – never swallow as it’s now full of bacteria! You’ll notice the oil is thinner as it has mixed with your saliva, and has become white as it has drawn out the toxins.
  • STEP 3: Thoroughly rinse your mouth out with water (or warm salt water for extra antimicrobial blasting!)
  • STEP 4: Brush your teeth with just water, no toothpaste needed!
  • STEP 5: Wash your basin as that will have toxic residue too.

What’s the point?

You’re basically cleansing your mouth to support your immune system, which in turn brings better health to your whole self. Our mouths are full of bacteria, parasites, fungis and toxins, most commonly Candida and Streptococcus. These germs (fed “beautifully” by our gross sugar-laden modern diet) are what cause tooth and gum decay and many other health issues. They travel easily through the membranes in the mouth and then into the bloodstream. So if your immune system is low from poor diet, high stress levels, lack of sleep etc then these germs can multiply with ease and rush off through your gums and into your blood super highway, wreaking all sorts of havoc throughout your body (digestive upsets, anxiety, arthritis, acne, eczema and so on).

What goes on?

The swishing action stimulates saliva and the saliva produces enzymes that draw the toxins out of the mucus membranes in the mouth so they don’t enter your system. Dr Karach, the oil pulling guru, who cured his own chronic blood disease and 15-year struggle with arthritis, notes that “if we would look at a drop of this liquid through a microscope, we would see all kind of moving fibers – those are microbes in the first stage of their growth”. Nice stuff, huh.

The swishing action also activates the whole digestive tract from mouth to bottom – try thinking about your favourite food and notice the saliva build up in your mouth, as this happens the liver starts producing bile to help break down the food that’s about to enter your stomach, stomach acids also increase and your intestines start to pulsate getting ready to help massage the nutrients through your system.

Just as reflexology has reflex points on the feet that correspond to different organs and systems, the tongue can also be mapped. Each section of the tongue has organ locations – lungs, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas, small intestines, stomach, colon and spine are all being massaged and cleansed whilst oil pulling.

The most obvious/quickest benefits

  • Teeth become firm and white
  • Gums become pink and plump
  • Deeper sleep
  • Feeling fresh and relaxed on waking up
  • Decreased dark circles under the eyes
  • Increased energy
  • Better memory

Longer term benefits

  • Menstrual problems ease
  • Less inflammation in the joints – arthritis
  • Better digestion
  • Decreased headaches/Migraines
  • More balanced blood sugar levels – Diabetes
  • Better hormonal balance – decreased acne
  • Increased elasticity and lubrication of the eyes
  • Chron’s Disease symptoms decrease

There continues to be extensive research conducted on the benefits of oil pulling. The amount of testimonials for all hosts of ailments far outways the list I have here.

So have a think about it, or better still just get on with it – super cheap, easy, and the worst it can do is improve your smile and save on your dental fees! Get swilling!

In rare cases, oil pulling may appear to initially worsen an ailment or other problem issue. Dr. Karach calls this “healing crisis”, wherein the pulling has activated a problematic symptom, making it appear inflamed. He advises to continue pulling in these instances, as this is a propitious sign that the ailment is has been targeted and is disappearing. Discontinuing will interrupt the healing process that is actually occurring.
(IMG: Randy Major)

Recipe: CHOCOLATE COCONUT CLUSTERS (vegan, gluten, dairy & grain-free)

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Ingredients:

1 cup of walnuts or cashew nuts (or ½ of each)

3 tbsp of coconut oil

½ cup cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla essence

10 dates or ½ cup of rasins or 2 tbsp of raw honey and 1 tbsp of water

pinch of Himalayan salt

¼ cup desiccated coconut

Preparation:

If using dates and/or raisins, ideally soak for at least 30mins in warm water for optimum juiciness!

Blend all the ingredients together, except the desiccated coconut. Roll into bite-sized balls, then roll in the dessicated coconut. Refrigerate to harden, or delicious kept in the freezer too! Enjoy!

Lemon & ginger variation: substitute cocoa powder for 3 tbsp of ginger powder & a squeeze of lemon

SIMPLE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES (gluten, sugar, dairy free)

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Here’s a delicious, nutritious pancake recipe you can use this Pancake Tuesday!
I’ve listed some savoury and sweet filling ideas below. Remember that choosing a sugar-free breakfast is crucial in keeping insulin levels balanced and keeping you fuller for longer. It also helps you better tune in to what your body truly needs – sugar often craves more sugar so watch out!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut or rice milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Coconut oil to grease the pan

Savory filling ingredients

  • Sauteed spinach and grated courgette
  • Scrambled egg with turmeric
  • Avocado and mixed leaves

Dessert filling ingredients

  • Stewed apple
  • Smashed blueberries and almond butter
  • Raspberries and coconut cream
Directions
  • Preheat a non-stick chemical-free pan / cast iron pan.
  • Whisk all the ingredients together.
  • Turn the heat up – moderate to high.
  • Grease the pan with a decent amount of coconut oil. Pour in the batter to fill the pan, cook, flip, plate, stuff with your choice of filling, consume.

SIMPLE FRUIT CRUMBLE (gluten, grain & sugar free, paleo, vegan)

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This dish is my current obsession: fresh, flavorful, gooey stewed fruit, topped with a crunchy crumble topping. It’s the perfect light dessert for the summer or cosy winter pudding drenched with organic cream. It also doubles as a delicious and healthy breakfast alternative for cereal addicts, as it is far superior in bio-available nutrients, fats and minerals than most commercially produced cereals.

 

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PLUM CREAM (dairy, sugar, grain & gluten free, paleo, vegan)

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I’m always trying to find healthier options for desserts as a way to help with sugar addictions and sweet dependencies among us all! So I’ve come up with the below recipe which I think is a great alternative to the normal sugar laden ice-cream or yoghurt. Of course you can play around with different fruits – ideally choose what is in season – or if you are fructose sensitive then berries are a good choice.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 2 plums (or nectarines are delicious too!)
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil
  • 4 TBSP almond flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  • Blend with a hand blender into a smooth creamy mixture then leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Consume as is, or as an accompaniment for crumble or cake! It is also really lovely with a sprinkle of  toasted coconut, nuts or seeds for a healthy breakfast option.