Flour Guide: Nutrition, Baking & Best Uses

With the number of flours available in the supermarket today, it can be overwhelming (What the hell is TEFF?!). This guide looks at some of the most popular flours used in everyday cooking and mentions some new flours that are available in stores. We share our top picks at the bottom of the blog to keep your delicious baking producing healthy outcomes too!

Grains 101

·       In Australia, wheat based flour is commonly used by food manufacturers and individuals at home. Wheat grains are ground down and sifted in a process called milling, to produce flour.

·       There are three major parts of a cereal grain: the endosperm, bran and germ.

·       Different components of any grain may be left in or taken out depending on how it is milled. This will produce different kinds of flour.  

WHITE FLOUR

In white flour, both the bran and germ have been removed via milling. As the bran and germ contain more dietary fibre than the endosperm, white flour has a light consistency. Many micronutrients including B vitamins, iron and magnesium are found in greater concentrations in the bran and germ layers of the grain. Therefore, white flour contains less of these nutrients. However, flour may be restored with some of these lost nutrients and may also be fortified with additional nutrients such as folic acid and iodine.

Uses: White flour is commonly used to make bread, pizza dough or sweet bakes such as cakes, muffins and scones. White flour is often used as a thickener for gravies and sauces.

Nutrition

 WHOLEMEAL FLOUR

Incorporates the bran layer of the wheat grain, which makes this flour higher in fibre, protein as well as vitamins and minerals (e.g. niacin (B3) and iron). This flour may also be fortified with additional micronutrients.

Uses: Like white flour, wholemeal flour may be used to make sweet/savoury breads or doughs or cakes, muffins and scones

RYE FLOUR

Derived from the rye grain, rye flour is milled in a similar fashion to wheat. A little harder to find and more expensive than wheat flour, you may have to venture outside major supermarket chains to find rye flour. Rye flour comes in both dark and light varieties. Light rye is lighter than dark rye and contains less calories, fibre and protein per.

Uses: Rye flour may be used to make breads, pumpernickel, crispbreads, or biscuits.

SPELT FLOUR

Spelt is an ancient grain, cultivated over thousands of years. This grain is rich in several vitamins and minerals including B vitamins (thiamin, niacin and folate), magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. Spelt is a high protein, high fibre flour making it a great alternative to wheat flour.

Uses: May be used to make dense breads, biscuits or pastas. Spelt is quite flavoursome so is best for savoury dishes.

GLUTEN FREE FLOUR

Gluten free flour is generally a mix of various gluten free flours including corn and tapioca starch and rice flour. Due to the ingredients, this flour is quite low in protein compared to other flours.

Uses: Gluten free plain or self-raising flour can be used to make a variety of dishes including breads, cakes, muffins, batters and can be used as a thickener for sauces/gravies.

COCONUT FLOUR

Derived from the pulp of the coconut, coconut flour is a soft, light flour. It is a by-product made during the coconut milk making process. Coconut flour is also extremely high in flbre and a good source of protein. This flour absorbs a lot of liquid, therefore much less is required to make a certain product (e.g. muffins) than wheat flour.

Uses: Coconut flour may be used to make cupcakes or muffins, cakes, biscuits, pancakes and breads. It may also be used as a gluten free alternative for batter.

QUINOA FLOUR

Derived from another ancient grain, quinoa flour is high in fibre and protein, and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, magnesium, iron and phosphate.

Uses: Quinoa flour produces quite a moist bake, and is good for muffins, cakes, pastries or sweet/savoury breads.

CHICKPEA FLOUR

You may or may not have seen chickpea flour in your local supermarket. As this flour is derived from chickpeas, it contains a significant amount of protein along with B vitamins and dietary fibre.

Uses: Chickpea flour may be used to bake cakes, breads and biscuits or for pancakes, fritters or batter

LENTIL FLOUR

Like chickpea flour, lentil flour is relatively new to the supermarket. Made purely from uncooked lentils, this flour provides a nutty flavour to dishes. Lentils are a great source of protein, dietary fibre and micronutrients such as iron, phosphate and copper.

Uses: Like chickpea flour, lentil flour may be used in a variety of dishes including sweet or savoury breads, cakes, muffins, fritters and to make batter.

TEFF FLOUR

Teff has long been used in Ethiopia as a staple grain, but it is relatively new to Western. Like quinoa, Teff is a good source of dietary fibre and protein. This gluten free flour is also rich in several micronutrients including B vitamins, calcium and iron.

Uses: Teff flour has an earthy, nutty taste and is a great gluten free alternative to wheat flour in cakes, muffins, breads and other bakes.

BUCKWHEAT FLOUR

Surprisingly, buckwheat is not a type of wheat. In fact, the buckwheat plant is related to rhubarb. Buckwheat flour is gluten free, and often used as a replacement for wheat. Buckwheat is available as both dark and light flours. Dark buckwheat is more flavoursome than light. Another high protein flour, buckwheat also contains several micronutrients including iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Uses: Dark buckwheat flour is great for making crepes or pancakes, whilst lighter buckwheat flour may be used to make biscuits, muffins, rolls and bread. As buckwheat is quite strong, it is best used along with another flour (e.g. rice flour) to reduce the nutty taste.

OUR TOP PICKS NUTRITION WISE

Rye Flour: Particularly dark flour which is higher in protein than the light variety. With 300 calories/cup (vs. 500 in white and wholemeal), 10.5g of protein and 9.1g of fibre as well as being of a moderate glycaemic index it could be a good baking option, particularly if you enjoy making your own bread. Its also relatively cheap $3/kg.

Lentil Flour: With 333 calories/cup (5th lowest out of 15 compared) its high in protein 25.4g and fibre 15.9g and comes in at a medium price range, $9/kg.

Teff Flour: Teff was the flour highest in protein with 39g/cup! It also rated high in terms of fibre (12.5g) and was sitting at 225 calories. However it is a little more expensive, $13/kg

To learn more about the nutritional composition of flours best to talk to us in the clinic - we love baking!!

References/Further Information

Most this nutritional information was obtained from calorieking.com.au. Nutrient information on lentil flour was taken from mckenziesfoods.com.au

Note: The nutritional information provided on this guide refers to uncooked flour

[1] Honest to Goodness foods

[2] https://thesourcebulkfoods.com.au/shop/cooking/organic-buckwheat-flour-gf/

[3] https://www.tooshfoods.com.au/shop/cooking-and-baking/organic-teff-flour/

A new face at Body Fusion

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Hi everyone,

I’m Katrina (please call me Kat) and I’ve recently joined Ash as another dietitian at Body Fusion. It has been such a wonderful experience forming a team here at Body Fusion HQ and we look forward to seeing more of you and the community in the future.

 

To summarise what I am all about I would say that I encourage eating wholefoods, living an active lifestyle and maintaining a positive mindset. Having a healthy mind, body and outlook is what I call the triple threat and is the key to being feeling happy & fulfilled.

 

If you have a look into my background you’ll see that I have graduated from the University of Sydney with a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics with an undergraduate in Science majoring in Physiology. Throughout my clinical placements I found a love for engaging with people both individually and on the large scale. This is why Ash and I are both such keen presenters, we enjoy talking about food – to as many people as we can!

 

Although I have a science, evidence based background I focus on putting these skills into practice, in my own life and professionally. I am a keen chef and often experiment with new healthy versions of recipes, some with more success than others, but hey, variety is the spice of life after all! Apart from cooking up a storm (yes, it looks like a storm has hit once I am finished cooking) in the kitchen, I also enjoy reading, writing and sampling the oldest and latest nutrition trends.

 

I thrive off helping people achieve their goals through real foods and making food work well for them in their own lives. This is why I keep an up to date knowledge of the supermarket shelves, new products and restaurant fads so I can help my clients navigate through todays confusing food world.

 

Being active is another aspect of what makes me .. me. I don’t discriminate when it comes to exercise because I enjoy it too much. I like going to my local gym to pump out some weights, I enjoy going on nice scenic walks and I try to relive my old dancing days on the yoga and pilates mat a couple times a week. There is no right/wrong in my book with exercise, if you’re moving then that’s a good thing. I do what makes me feel better and I encourage my clients to do the same.

 

So now you have gotten to know me a little more, I hope to return the favour. If you are someone who is a little lost/stuck/frustrated with their food, needs food to help them with any medical conditions or just want some nutrition myths debunked, come and visit us! We’d love to hear from you.

 

Eat well and keep moving,

 

Yours in health,

Kat

Thai Style Baked Fish

I've always been a big supporter of the Mediterranean diet and its inclusion of fish. Fish contains Omega 3's important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. It also helps reduce inflammation in the body (inflammation can lead to increased risk of chronic disease and other health problems). Try and include a fresh fish meal at least once in your week. It mixed things up anyway and tastes delicious if infused with some herbs!

Ingredients:


• 6 lemongrass stalks
• 12 Kaffier lime leaves
• 1 large kg fillet of firm white fish e.g. Barramundi, Ling, King Fish
• ¼ store bought red curry paste
• 2 Tbsp Shredded ginger
• 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
• 2 long red chilis, seeds removed and chopped
• 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 Cup Coriander leaves
• 1 Cup Mint leaves
• 1 Cup Thai Basil leaves
• Steamed basmati, doongara or mahatma rice and lime wedges, to serve

 

Directions:

Preheat over to 200 degrees. Place the lemongrass and lime leaves in a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and top with fish, skin side down. Spread the flesh of the fish with the curry paste. Combine the ginger, garlic, chili and oil. Sprinkle over the fish and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Top the fish with the coriander, mint and thai basil and serve with steamed rice, a big bunch of vegetables or salad and lime wedges. Oh and then totally eat it all up...

Ash ;)

Sunday Runs, Markets and Muesli (Recipe Included!)

Imagine this:

On the horizon sits the sun, a bright yellow beginning, slowly climbing its ladder up the coloured sky. A light breeze pushes you into a rhythmic run, right along the sleepy beach and up to a grassy green headland. You stop to catch you breath, your heart hammering gratitude as you drink in the 360-degree view.

A couple of more minutes. A couple of more colours… Time to go.

Following the seagulls down the sandy path, past the receding aqua wash and waving to the local surfers, you finally reach the end of your journey. With the salty ocean breeze brushing your face, you turn like a magnet to the sparkling ocean. With a start, you run in to meet your old friend with a joyful laugh, still fully clothed. There you float. Free. Happy. Alive.

With exhilarated rosy cheeks and slight regret, you drag yourself away from the caring hands of the ocean… time for the markets!

 And this is just the way my Sunday began.

_____________________________________________________________

I am a big fan of local markets in Sydney. They offer fresh produce, you can meet and support local farmers and taste before you buy. It’s such a sensory experience. They smell of warm crusty bread, cinnamon sticks and freshly blended citrus juices all of which mingle in with a sea of interesting people as you weave your way in and out. My fresh produce lasts about twice as long and tastes about twice as good!

This Sunday I was on a mission. A client had given me a delicious muesli recipe and brought some in as a gift (thank you, you know who you are). It tasted phenomenal and I was committed to making my own variety.

As I wondered amongst the bustling stores I bartered over buckwheat and nutted out the best place to buy my pecans. Half an hour later I was content with a bag full of goodies. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so excited.

Experimentation took the good part of my Sunday afternoon but this is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 300g sprouted buckwheat
  • 1 cup of oats (you could use quinoa flakes if you want gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup of amaranth
  • 200g pecans or walnuts
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 2 long (10-12cm) cinnamon quills
  • 2 tsp. dried nutmeg
  • 120g medjool dates (deseeded and cut into small pieces)
  • 300g dried apple (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 80g Canadian Maple Syrup

Optional (makes it a little higher in energy but a lot more crunchy!)

  • 50g coconut oil
  • 100g shredded coconut

Method:

1.     Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2.     With mortar and pestle or end of rolling pin bash/grind cinnamon to break up sticks. With your hands then break/rip up cinnamon into small bits (as small as you can!).

3.     Add all other ingredients into a big mixing bowl, melting coconut oil if necessary. Mix well to coat with oil and maple syrup.

4.     Put into 1 or 2 large baking trays lined with baking paper.

5.     Periodically check muesli over next 30-40minutes, using a wooden spoon to slowly turn over the muesli when it looks brown.

6.     Leave to cool for 20 mins.

Nutrition:

  • Amaranth is a great source of iron (~5mg/cup).
  • Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Apples contain polyphenols and flavonoids, which prevent oxidation in the body, preventing  disease and ageing.
  • Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium, a micronutrient responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including enzymes required for maintaining stable blood glucose levels.
  • All the grains, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of fibre, which makes you feel full and aids digestion.
  • This mix is also high in healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, which promote clear cognition, boost HDL (healthy) cholesterol, maintain hormone production and lubricate joints.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, vital for promoting immunity, clear skin, strong hair and nails.
  • Sesame are incredibly rich sources of many essential minerals including Calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc and selenium.

How to eat this delicious mix:

  • Portion out ½ a cup (trust me doesn’t look like a lot but its so filling!). Add some milk, yoghurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. Wouldn’t be surprised if you are content until lunch ;)
  • Nibble on as a snack during your work day.
  • Add over the top of some ice cream as a treat.

Stress and busy lifestyles: How is it affecting your health?

Your mind is racing, with a long list of things to still do. The calendar is full of social events and commitments. Work is hounding and you can’t remember the last time you had your lunch break. You are sleep deprived exhausted, grumpy and defeated. 

Does it ever stop?

This blog comes inspired by another post I read recently which reflected on the way our lives have become so demanding that we have surrendered our identity to one of perpetual busyness. 

The author proposed that when asked how we are, we often respond with “I am so busy” or “I am exhausted”. He then went on to describe that in Arabic when you want to ask how someone is doing, you ask: Kayf haal-ik?  and this actually translates to “how is your heart”? 

This really connected with me and I will tell you why. These days we are so caught up in doing that we are not being. We tend to measure our success by doings. Often it’s the classic scenario of setting ourselves the goals or outcomes we want to achieve and when get there- wanting more. How much can we push? How much harder can we work? More, more, more! And with this we lose sight and awareness of those human moments and connections in which we can immerse our full attention and joy in being in that moment. We are always thinking, planning, what next?

I am not saying don’t set goals, have dreams or aspirations. I’m just saying, be realistic with these expectations and give your self a break if you take a little longer to get there. We are our worst critics.

In addition to this, we are frequently projecting what we think people or society wants us to be. Take a look at facebook? Doesn’t it seem like everyone has perfectly happy lives and looks stunning in every picture posted? Lets get real. This isn’t all of who we really are. 

And all the while this running around and projecting is making us TIRED and STRESSED. 

I think if we look a little deeper we can evaluate how stress and busy lifestyles affect our health:

Stress: 

Stress is a natural body response.  It can be positive in small doses to avoid danger, but if turned on continually (“distress”) stress can begin to affect the body in quite a negative way. The stress hormones are cortisol and adrenaline, which are both released by the adrenal glands perched on top of the kidneys.

When these hormones are over excited you will most likely experience symptoms such as disturbed sleep, elevated blood pressure, fatigue, an upset stomach, headaches or anxiety. 

How stress impacts upon my clients:

  • Heightened sensitivities to food
  • Triggering of binge or emotional eating
  • Inability to make decisions or organise themselves
  • Overeating
  • The use of food or alcohol as reward to get through hard circumstances
  • Weight gain
  • Poor sleep and consequential increased appetite
  • Heart attacks (I am serious)

Lack of good sleep

I don’t really know where to start. Sleep is so crucial to good health – and we spend a third of our lives doing it (wow!).

During sleep cerebrospinal fluid flow increases 20 fold. The brain also shrinks to leave room for it to surge into the interstitial space between brain structures. This process allows the waste products of metabolism to be eliminated. 

Lack of good sleep can result in the following:

Studies have proven that 7-9 hours sleep is optimal. I’d be advising turn off that technology before bed! Recent studies have shown that blue light from technological devices reduces melatonin in the brain (a hormone which makes you sleepy).

Using and Abusing Food, Caffeine & Alcohol

Food as a reward or celebration, caffeine to bump you through the day or alcohol as a switch off…. go on, you “deserve it”. Too much of the previous isn’t a good thing.

Why?  You are behaviorally depending on these things to deal with stress and in large quantities this can have profound consequences on your health.

Too Much Caffeine:

  • Anxiety, racing thoughts, problems sleeping, fatigue, dependency, withdrawal headaches.

Too Much Food:

  • Weight gain. Too much sugar, salt and fat link back to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Too Much Alcohol:

  • Weight gain and poor food choices. There is also strong evidence that the chronic intake of alcohol (more than 2 drinks/day) is associated with increased risk of many cancers. These include mouth, lung, gastric (stomach), liver, endometrial, pancreatic, colorectal and breast.

Three years ago I spent New Years Eve at a small oasis in the middle of a dessert in Peru. I had been travelling South America with friends for ten weeks and it gave me some fantastic time for reflection. All my life I have been a doer and it always meant I was always on the run. I literally couldn’t sit still! Even if I was at home I needed to be doing something “productive”. My resolution was to slow down and create more “me” or “quiet” time.

Since then this has revolutionized my life. I have learnt to say no to invitations without guilt. I have learnt it’s ok to have a quiet moment - silences don’t have to be filled.  I am also selfish about my wellbeing. I now practice yoga 5-6 times per week and use my Friday’s sometimes as mental health days to keep my mind fresh. I believe this helps run my business to its maximum potential – I love my job.

I now feel more centered and happy. I can give out more motivation, education and inspiration to my beautiful clients. I am less tired and more relaxed. My immunity is improved, I do not get sick often. I recover well from my exercise. I sleep like an absolute log.

So do you want to be one of those people who when asked always says, “Busy”? Or do you want to be one who is a relatively relaxed and with a lot better health?

How is your heart? 

Quinoa & Kale Salad

It was time. Rumours had been flying, and I had to see for myself.

Off I wandered to the renown Sydney Flemington markets last Saturday. The atmosphere was a lot different to the markets that I was used to for sure, was I in Sydney? Lots of hustle and bustle with sellers shouting loudly over a jungle of people and rainbow coloured fruit boxes. I had to carefully watch my step not to get bowled over. I was a little frightened at first: So many options of what to choose and so many people were shouting at me! I then progressed on to buy my first item - some radishes. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but they just looked so fresh.  "One dollar fifty" said the lady. I was so surprised... so cheap? That's when this became fun, almost a game! How much fruit and vegetables could I get? Time to be adventurous ;) A whole cucumber, pack of oranges, parsley, lemon and bags of delicious produce later, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed hot footing it out of there with a big grin on my face. 

When I got home I decided to be creative with what I had bought and came up with a phenomenal quinoa salad recipe. I thought it wouldn't hurt to share:

Ingredients (~6 serves)

1 cup tricoloured quinoa (raw)

1/2 large bunch of kale, de-stemmed and finely sliced

1 carrot grated

4 chopped spring onions

2/3 cup chopped parsley

1 tomato diced

100g mung beans (you could also use regular sprouts)

1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted almonds

Juice from two freshly squeezed oranges

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tbsp olive oil

Pepper 

Method

1) Wash quinoa. Add 2 cups water and bring to boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer. When all water has almost gone, take quinoa off the heat and let it steam in saucepan with lid on (3mins). Then let quinoa cool

2) Add oil to wok and lightly fry/toss kale until wilted. Add soy sauce and toss for 1 more min, remove from heat (can do at same time as cooking quinoa)

3) Add all ingredients together in a big bowl and mix. Add a bit of pepper if you like for some extra taste.

Ways to use this healthy salad:

--> Add a side dish with some grilled salmon/fish and lemon

--> In a wrap with falafel and hommous

--> By itself with an added 95g tin of tuna, grilled chicken or lamb

--> For vegetarians add some tofu, chick peas or lentils to bulk up for a main meal

--> Add a generous handful of salad to make chicken, kangaroo, lean mince or veggie burgers. Why not add some avocado and beetroot too?!

Nutrition to get you to your Nineties!

Do you want to live a long life? Do you want to live a comfortable life? (Minimised stressful life events like heart attacks, falls and injuries or even bothering stomach upsets or sickness) If you like me, I'd like to think I was still skydiving at age 85 ;)

I was very honoured today to have a visit from a beautiful client who is just about to turn 93. This is the second time within a couple of years I have been graced with the presence of someone who can sit in front of me and talk about living through the second world war!

The longer our consult went on, the more I began to admire her sense of health and positive daily habits. It soon became apparent to me WHY she had lived so long. Ok yes, genetics have some say in your risk of disease pathways but this woman was living proof of dietary choices impacting profoundly upon longevity.

Some simple things I observed (and from which we can all learn from):

- She grew her own vegetables in her own garden. Every day she would pick only as much as she needed for her meals (No food wastage, she gets food sustainability points too!). These were seasonal vegetables free of pesticides and full of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

- She ate regular meals and included afternoon and morning snacks of fresh fruit, yoghurt or nuts. High quality nutrients to maintain bone integrity and immunity

- She ate fresh fish 4-5x/week for lunch with her garden vegetables and a couple of potatoes. Fish has always been regarded as a phenomenally nourishing choice due to is Omega 3's which support cognition, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and support healthy joints. Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrate, B6 which supports the nervous system and vitamin C, an antioxidant which reduces cellular damage.

- She didn't drink any coffee but mostly tea and a glass of water every meal

- She was in bed by 830pm every night and slept a solid 8 hours

- Although 93, she still participated in bowls 2x/week and gardened most days out in the sun (Our primary source of vitamin D!)

This client and I had a fantastic education session. She is now implementing some of my advice to tweak her diet further. I just love that she is so open to this even at her age.

So, I ask you. How do you want you health to be and what do you want to be doing with your life at age 93? Why not act now?

For The Love of Chocolate

CHOCOLATE: A necessary evil, an addiction, a daily ritual?

I will confess. If I have any vice it is for chocolate. Hot chips – don’t care. Natural confectionary – the little dinosaurs don’t do it for me. MacDonald’s – you would probably have to pay me. But chocolate…

One of the things I LOVE about my job as a dietitian is taking something deliciously naughty and turning it into something nice and healthy. That way you feel completely indulgent and at the same time every cell in your body is singing with gratitude.

Chocolate is made from a plant called the cacao tree. The bitter beans of this tree are harvested and then fermented. After this the beans can then be roasted, ready to make chocolate. The problem is what comes next, the addition of FAT SUGAR, SALT and other additives to enhance taste and preserve texture.

Why am I so addicted to chocolate?

Feeling like you are on a high and euphoric after scoffing down some chocolate? Hold onto your chocolate block – there is a scientific reason!! Chocolate triggers chemical pathways in the brain, which release a hormone called dopamine. What does dopamine do? Amongst many other outcomes it stimulates reward and pleasure centers within the brain.

Still holding onto your chocolate block? Good because I have some furthur confronting news. What happens is that over time our body becomes desensitised to this dopamine release. So what happens? YOU NEED MORE CHOCOLATE to feel just as good! 

Cacao vs. cocoa – I’m so confused?

Raw Cacao: Made from crushed unroasted beans

Cocoa: Raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures

So… what is the difference? When analysing both products it appears that raw cacao has a higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). This means a higher antioxidant activity. Antioxidants aid in preventing cell oxidation, a process known to contribute to ageing and chronic disease risk.

Other Health Benefits of Cocoa and Cacao

  • Blood Pressure reduction: A Cochrane Review in 2012 found cocoa to reduce blood    pressure by 2-3mm Hg (small but statistical significance).
  •  Increases HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels: Cacao and cocoa have been seen to suppress LDL (not so healthy) cholesterol oxidation (Baba et al 2007).
  • Good source of dietary fibre to promote healthy digestive system
  •  Contains other minerals and vitamins such as: calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, zinc,

Last week I started experimenting with making my own chocolate, inspired by another blog post (I wont take all the credit here!).

This is the base recipe:

½ a cup of melted coconut oil

2/3 cup of raw cacao powder

5 tbsp. maple syrup

Method:

1.     Slowly melt the oil over a low heat. Add in the other ingredients and combine until silky smooth.

2.     Add something experimental and nutritious:

  • 1 tbsp flaxseed
  • 2 tbsp sultanas
  • 30g roughly chopped almonds
  • 1 cap vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup smashed raspberries
  • A small amount of peppermint oil
  • A combination of the above!

3.     Cover a small container with baking paper (here you can moderate the thickness and shape of your chocolate) and add the chocolate mixture

4.     Freeze for 10 minutes

5.     Enjoy and savour S-L-O-W-L-Y:

  • What does the chocolate smell like - vanilla, nutty, sweet?
  • What flavours can you taste?
  • What kind texture do you feel in your mouth? 
  • How does the chocolate look - crumbly, smooth, sharp, interesting?
  • How does a bite sound - do you take a crisp bite or does it melt silently into your mouth?

Remember that coconut oil still contains high amounts of saturated fat and should be used in moderation (ie. Don’t eat all you chocolate in one go!). My next step will be to trial some macadamia oil in the mix. Wish me luck!

Keep happy and healthy!

Ash xx

Dry July – How to regenerate a healthy liver

You might be familiar with one of the following scenarios below:

1)   You’ve woken up for work with a ringing headache and are feeling about as average as Spain did in the World Cup soccer. How did the end of financial year work drinks cascade into a shower of champagne or a steady flowing abundance of delicious beer?

2)   The weather in Sydney had become so bitingly cold that it justifies a good hearty glass of red by the fire – every night. For every degree colder this fosters furthur justification of a) A cheeky glass of port or desert wine to top the night off or b) Some/a block of chocolate to accompany the red wine

Your lovely liver: An under valued vital organ that regulates many processes in your body. However, at this time of the year it’s starting to complain. Battered and bruised its been fighting a little too hard.

The liver has various functions within the body the main one being DETOXIFICATION. That’s right! The liver helps to purify the blood by removing toxins such as alcohol and drugs from the body. But did you know it also helps regulate hormone levels? Can you imagine what happens when it can perform this duty well? Hormones regulate everything from sleep to mood, metabolism, reproduction and immunity - to mention a few!

The liver also works to DIGEST all your food. Fats are digested by bile in the stomach, which is a product secreted by your happy hepatic (liver) cells and transported to the gall bladder. Carbohydrates and proteins are broken down so that these nutrients can eventually be converted to energy for use within the body. 

Also wondering why when your liver has been under the pump you are more likely to come down with some mysterious flu? Well the liver is also responsible for your IMMUNITY.  It plays an important role in capturing and digesting nasties such as bacteria, parasites, worn out blood cells and fungi.

So lets focus on some liver regeneration.

Number 1: Reduce your alcohol intake. Limit alcohol to weekends only or if you can, commit to a month off. Lets face it, a hot milo in front of the fire is going to be lot more nutritious; alcohol is empty calories anyway (contains basically no nutrients). Focus on average 2L of water daily which can include herbal teas such as chamomile to rehydrate and filter the blood.

Number 2: Reduce highly processed foods particularly ones that are not only high in saturated fat but also salt and sugar. For example: processed and fatty meats (sausages, salami, bacon), deep fried take out and fast foods, cakes and biscuits, pastries and chocolate.

Number 3: Increase your intake of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat. This will aid in reducing liver inflammation. Include nuts, seeds (flaxseed particularly) and oils (e.g extra virgin olive oil) as a part of your daily diet.

Number 4: Be smart with your selection of fruits.  Berries, pomegranate and grapes (I know you are already thinking wine again but the alcohol content outweighs the benefits here!) contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, which can help to regenerate liver cells. The bitter in lemon and limes can also break down stagnant material.

After following this for a good month you liver should start to improve all its functions. Hopefully a lot of what I have recommended also becomes habitual!

Also why not actually sign up for Dry July though and contribute some money towards a good cause like cancer prevention? Think of all the money you are saving not consuming alcohol anyway!

Stay happy, healthy and warm.

Ash xx

Chili Con Carne

Winter is upon us and suddenly we are craving warming and filling foods. Better make them healthy! I made this one the other weekend in my slow cooker. But you can do it just as easily on the stove. If you are vegetarian this one can also be for you! Why not add some extra beans and veggies and omit the lean beef. Feel free to also experiment with your extras. I added some jalapeños to mine and next time I will definitely consider some salsa or avocado.

High in FIBRE with brown rice and many veggies. High in VITAMIN C with tomatoes to maintain a strong immunity. LOW GI to fill you up. And also this more than provides enough leftovers to save you time when things get busy. This recipe also tastes better with every passing day as the flavours mix and mingle more and more. DELICIOUS! :)

Ingredients (serves 8 - Plenty of leftovers!)

3 cloves garlic (minced or finely chopped)

1 brown onion (chopped)

1 red capsicum (chopped into small pieces)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 red chill

Black cracked pepper

750g lean mince

1 can kidney beans

400g tinned tomatoes

1/2 bunch fresh basil (finely chopped)

Brown rice

4xsmall wholemeal pita bread

Light sour cream (small tub)

Reduced fat cheese (25% Bega)

Method:

1. Add olive oil, garlic, onion and capsicum to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until brown

2. Add in lean beef mince and cook until brown

3. Add tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, cumin and chili. Keep on a medium heat until completely mixed and food is warm.

4. Leave to simmer and steam with the lid on for 30mins with reduced heat

5. Whilst this is simmering add a cup of brown rice with 2.5 cups of water to a rice cooker or saucepan. Cook until almost all water is gone and then steam with the saucepan of the heat.

5. Add basil and pepper to season to the chill con carne mix

6. Cut up wholemeal pitas into 6 pieces per pita and place in the grill for 5-10 minutes. WATCH THIS CAREFULLY they seem to go from brown to black quite quickly from experience!

7. Serve: A good large spoon of brown rice, a good couple of large spoon of the chill con carne mixture onto a plate. Garnish with sour cream on top and a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese. Add pitas around the plate.

8. Enjoy and feel nourished!!