An Introduction to Superfoods – Part 2

Maca

Archaeological evidence shows that maca was domesticated over 2,000 years ago by the predecessors of the Incan people.

maca

Often indigenous tribes would bring cacao nibs and beans (raw chocolate) up to the Andes from the jungle and in exchange maca would go down from the Andes into the jungle. Both cacao and maca were used as money by ancient indigenous peoples, which says a great amount about how much it was revered.

Maca is a powerful adaptogen, which means it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s systems, such as the cardiovascular system, nervous system, musculature and lymphatic systems. Adaptogens also boost immunity and increase the body’s overall vitality by 10-15% according to most studies.

Rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulphur and iron, and contains trace minerals, including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica, as well as vitamins B1, B2, C and E. Containing nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids, Peruvian research claims that maca improves memory, increases oxygen in the blood, improves the function of neurotransmitters and increases libido.

Maca is excellent in smoothies, desserts and chocolate. It has a wonderful synergy with cacao due to its hormone balancing properties. It has a beautiful and powerful malty caramel flavour, but beware it is strong, so use responsibly! I have experienced excellent benefits to energy levels when I have maca and found it has also helped when endurance is required such as in sports training or exercise.

Carob

The carob plant bears fruit known as carob pods. 

carobThese pods have been used as food for more than 5,000 years. Carob powder comes from carob pods.Carob powder is an alternative to cocoa powder, having several distinct advantages.

Unlike chocolate, carob contains neither caffeine nor theobromine. Caffeine, and to a lesser extent theobromine, are both stimulants, making you more alert and giving you a boost of energy. However, they can also make you restless, anxious and irritable.

Too much caffeine can lead to headaches and even abnormal heart rhythms. For many people who consume caffeine on a regular basis, stopping consumption leads to symptoms of withdrawal. If you like a taste similar to chocolate, but without the stimulating effects, carob provides a suitable alternative.Carob contains calcium, which is important for proper bone and teeth formation and about 100g of carob provide almost half of the average person’s daily calcium requirement.

It is rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and potassium. It is also a good source of fibre and protein. In addition to being naturally cholesterol-free, carob also contains pectin, which lowers cholesterol levels and decreases your risk for heart disease. In a study by Zunft et al, carob pulp was shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic patients.

Carob is a great addition to raw desserts and works really well in smoothies. Use as a great alternative to cacao for that energy boost without any stimulant effects. I love the beautiful malty flavour. It is a wonderful natural sweetener. I especially love putting carob in chocolate as it adds another dimension of flavour.

Lucuma

Lucuma is a subtropical fruit of Andean origin. Its flavour is similar to a cross between maple and sweet potato. It has been called the “Gold of the Incas”.

lucuma-giant

Lucuma is an excellent source or carbohydrates, fibre, carotene, vitamin B3, and other B vitamins. It has remarkable concentrations of beta-carotene, an immune system boosting vitamin and also contains niacin and iron with significant amounts of calcium and phosphorus.

The level of complex carbohydrates, minerals and fibre make it an excellent low glycemic addition to desserts and recipes.

Lucuma can be mixed into smoothies, used to make ice cream or can be used as an excellent sweetener replacement, due to its low GI score. It provides a delicious caramel-like flavour. I love adding lucuma to sweeteners and have recently discovered a wonderful recipe for raw caramel, which includes lucuma, maple syrup, coconut oil and ground almonds.

Please do contact me if you’d like anymore advice on Superfoods! 

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.

p.s I highly recommend a Fermentation Master Class that I will be attending, taught by Amy Levin – you can find out more details and book your place here.

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An introduction to Superfoods (part 1)

Superfoods can have hugely positive impact on health, especially when high quality foods have been sourced.

In this blog post, the focus is on 3 plant based superfoods, grown and cultivated in pristine waters and lakes – Chlorella, wrack seaweed and blue green algae.

Chlorella

chlotella_plate

Chlorella has its name due to the high concentration of chlorophyll it possesses. It has the highest amount of chlorophyll per gram of any plant studied so far. Chlorella is known for its remarkable detoxification properties. It has been found in numerous research findings to aid in the breakdown of hydrocarbon toxins and heavy metals such as mercury and lead, whilst also being involved in strengthening the immune system.

Chlorella stimulates red blood cell production and helps transporting oxygen around the body and also to the brain.   Is is also thought to increase interferon levels, which results in increased production of T-cells and macrophages, enhancing the body’s natural defences and protecting against diseases such as cancer.

Being high in fibre, it has a cleansing effect on the bowel and aids in healthy digestion due to the presence of digestive enzymes such as pepsin and chlorophyllase. Chlorella is also alkalizing for the body helping to balance pH levels.

It is important to ensure your source of chlorella is high quality, as poorer quality sources may contain contaminants and toxins.

Wrack Seaweed

wrackseaweed

A perfect trace mineral balance for the human body. Wrack seaweed is also very alkalising and acts as an excellent preservative for other foods.It is one of the finest natural sources of iodine and all amino acids. It contains up to 60 trace elements and contains vitamins A, B, B12, C, E and potassium.

The ocean contains the same minerals and trace elements as human blood and these are integrated into the living tissue of seaweed. The natural vitamins, foundation minerals and vital nutrients are in a form that is easily assimilated. It has been estimated that certain seaweeds are up to 30 times higher in minerals than land food, which is affected by depleted nutrient levels in our soils.

Many people are understandably concerned about consuming produce from the oceans due to media reports of pollution, but this issue is widely misunderstood. Generally the ocean is a far less polluted growing medium than land soil especially farm soil because of the widespread use of pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers as well as airborne industrial pollutants.

Blue green algae

bluegreenalgae

Blue green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria is found naturally growing in alkaline waters of ponds and lakes. It is actually closer to a bacteria than an algae. It is rich in vitamins A, C, E and the B complex vitamins including B-6 and B-12. These vitamins are highly bioavailable, in a state that is easily assimilable for the body.

Phycocyanin is the pigment which gives blue-green algae its characteristic colour. Blue-green algae is high in protein and essential amino acids and also rich in minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron and high in trace minerals.

Due to the exceptionally high nutrient content of Blue-green algae, it has huge energy-bossting and immune-system strengthening properties. It also has strong anti-oxidant properties, which aids in the detoxification and elimination process. It is also believed to balance flora in the gut and fight overgrowth of candida. Other potential benefits can include anti-ageing, reduction in depression and levels of stress and improved memory.

It is very important to find a high quality source of blue-green algae, as poor quality sources may contain high levels of heavy-metals and other toxins.

And with all superfoods source only organic, truly raw and the highest quality possible ensuring that those growing the foods are committed to living sustainably.

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

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Eating Seasonally (Part 2)

So I decided for this blog to pick out another delicious food that is very suited to being enjoyed at this time of year – butternut squash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut squash is a winter squash, and is actually a fruit, as it contains seeds. It has a lovely nutty flavour and is packed full of antioxidants and phtyonutrients. It is low in fat and high in fibre, making it great for the digestion and also for the heart. It is also high in potassium, which helps support healthy bone growth.

It’s vibrant yellow colour is indiciative of the high levels of carotenoids, which support heart function and it also contains beta-carotene, which has been shown to help prevent breast-cancer and prevent macular degeneration. It’s levels of vitamin A also help to support healthy skin and mucus membranes and it is also very high in Vitamin C, helping to boost the immune system in those cold winter months.

Creamy butternut squash and sage mash

This mash is an easy recipe to make and is full of flavour. It can be enjoyed as it is, or can ben served in place of regular cooked mash as an accompaniment to any meal.

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled
½ cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained
4 tsp fresh sage or 2 tsp dried sage
2 tsbp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tsp Pink Himalalayan salt
Pinch black pepper

• Using a vegetable chopper or food processor, dice butternut squash into very small pieces. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp lemon juice and cover in water. Soak for at least 2 hours.
• Rinse and drain butternut squash and place in blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth. Garnish with black pepper.
• The mash can ben served cold or warm. To warm, if you have a Vitamix, you can continue to blend on high, until mash reaches desired temperature. Alternatively, place mash in a pan and warm on a very low heat.

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.

Eating Seasonally (Part 1)

In today’s world, with the advent of supermarkets and imported food, we have become accustomed to eating pretty much any food at any time. Eating seasonally however, can bring major boosts to your health and can also support the health of this wonderful planet we are living. When we eat fruits and vegetables that have not been grown in season, in a large number of cases they have been flown long distances, up to 1000s of miles to get here.

They have often not been allowed to grow to maturity and are picked in an immature state, which means they will more than likely lose a lot of nutrients before they arrive on our shelves. As well as the reduction in nutrient content, the cost in shipping and increase in atmospheric pollution to deliver this produce to us cannot be ignored as a major detriment to the sustainability of the planet.

By eating seasonally, you are living much more in tune with the planet’s natural cycles. The food you consume will often contain nutrients that correspond to your bodies’ needs. You are also purchasing fruit and vegetables that have had time to ripen and reach their optimum level of quality, when they will contain the highest possible levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Alongside eating seasonally, it is also really important to choose high quality organic produce. By choosing organic, you are avoiding the harmful pesticides and chemical that are sprayed on the fruits and vegetables and research has shown that there are higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants in organic compared to non organic produce.

Farmers’ markets are an ideal place to shop for high quality organic fruits and vegetables. You get to speak to the local farmers and find out exactly how they have grown their food and at the same time you are supporting the businesses that are working with food in the right way, rather than giving your money to nameless multinational organisations that care more about profits than creating a harmonious and sustainable planet.

A seasonal vegetable – Parsnips

Parsnips are a perfect vegetable to be eaten at this time of year. Most people know the conventional ways of eating parsnips, but when prepared in the right way, they can also be eaten raw, preserving more of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre, and contain antioxidants, which have been shown to have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. They are also rich in Vitamins K and E and high in folic acid, a B vitamin, which can help prevent birth defects in pregnant women and support healthy brain function.

Fruity-spiced parsnip rice

One of the best ways to eat parsnips raw is to create parsnip rice. There are many ways of making different flavours of parsnip rice, so feel free to play around with the ingredients, but I enjoy this recipe as it contains warming spices, which are perfect for this cold time of year. The parsnip rice can used in place of normal rice, added to a salad or enjoyed on its own as a snack!

Ingredients:
4 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped roughly
3 tbsp cashew nuts
4 tbsp mixed dried fruit, including raisins, cranberries and apricots
1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground coconut sugar or raw honey
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
Himalayan salt and and ground black pepper to season

•    Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until ‘rice-like’ consistency is reached.
•    Parsnip rice will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.

Setting up a raw food kitchen (part 2)

In this post, I will focus on 3 pieces of equipment that I find invaluable in my raw-food kitchen and really open up the options available to you when it comes to producing a large and exciting variety of raw food dishes: the dehydrator, mandoline and spiraliser.

Dehydrator

Dehydrators are amazing pieces of kit. They are fantastic for raw meals in general and also for raw cakes and pies. They remove moisture from the food and heat it without taking it above the temperature that would kill any of the enzymes. Dehydrators are excellent for producing dishes, which take on that slow cooked profile, such as marinated Portobello mushroom steaks. Savoury foods that can be made in a dehydrator also include pizza bases, crackers, raw bread, vegetable wraps, semi-dried vegetables, kale and vegetable crisps to name a few. They are are also useful for desserts and goodies such as cookies, dried fruits and dried fruit strips and making crusts that bit more pastry-like. They can also dehydrate seed, nut and coconut pulp, which can then be blended to make flour.

 

I would recommend the Excalibur dehydrator, which is one of the best on the market. It has either five or nine trays and the heat is evenly distributed, meaning you can dehydrate large amounts of food at the same time. There are many out there though, so do some research and find out which one meets your needs.

Other dehydrators:

  • L’Equip dehydrator – cheaper than the Excalibur but smaller in storage room
  • Nesco range – cheaper option, but still highly reviewed

One point I would make about dehydrators, is that although technically the food is still raw, some would argue that the food loses some of its life force and freshness when moisture is removed. If I have dehydrated elements such as dry crackers, I would always serve them with fresh vegetables, salads, dips and sauces so that there is a healthy balance and diversity of ingredients on offer.

Mandoline

A mandoline is a very clever piece of equipment. It allows you to cut vegetables to your desired thickness from thick chunks to paper-thin. This allows you to then effortlessly marinate all your vegetables to create those perfect flavours and textures for your dish. Most mandolines also have an attachment for creating crinkle cuts and also julienne cuts, which can save a huge amount of time. Please ensure that you always use the hand guard when using the mandolin to slice, as those blades are very sharp!

Mandolines are fairly inexpensive pieces of equipment and you can purchase a decent one for between £30-50. Some of the models I recommend include:

  • Good Grips– has an excellent safety guard and has lots of useful settings
  • John Lewis range – for a slightly less expensive option

Spiraliser

A spiraliser is a really fun piece of kit and can be used to sex up your salads and create pasta strips out of many vegetables. It is especially useful for making spiral courgette strips, which can then easily be served with a sauce to create delicious courgette pasta.

 

Spiralisers cost in the region of £30 upwards. I would recommend the Lurch Spirali or if you want to spend a little more money, a Japanese turning slicer.

Look out for another post coming soon, which will feature other equipment I use to make raw food and a low-down on juicers! 

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Creating a raw food kitchen (part one)

It is important when transitioning into a raw food lifestyle to ensure that you have the correct resources and equipment in place to ensure that you can make the food that you desire quickly, easily and with minimum hassle. In this post, I talk about 2 pieces of equipment very popular with raw foodies, the blender and the food processor and their benefits and uses. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contribute and share your thoughts!

Blender:

A good quality blender is a really essential piece of equipment when it comes to raw food making and raw desserts. It is perfect for making smoothies, sauces, soups and dips and if it is powerful enough can be great for making raw desserts too. I would recommend, if you are willing to make the investment, purchasing a Vitamix blender – one of the great pieces of modern day technology! It is so powerful and will pulverize pretty much anything, from cacao beans to frozen fruit chunks in a matter of seconds! It is fantastic, as it will break down the foods so that they are much easier to assimilate and digest.

With the Vitamix, you can achieve most of the functions of a food processor as well as a blender, being able to achieve both chunky and ultra smooth textures. It also comes with a 7-year warranty. Just so you know, I don’t sell them! I also find the Vitamix great for desserts. It is fantastic for making smooth and creamy fillings and toppings is a particularly good one to do it here, because as good as a high quality food processor is, it can often leave a grainy consistency.

It is fine if you are not willing to invest in a Vitamix and there are many other blenders that are perfectly good for create raw food.

Other good blenders if you don’t want to spend as much include:

• The Kitchenaid blender range
• Cuisinart blenders

Food processor:

Food processors are obviously very useful kitchen appliances when it comes to chopping just about any food. I find a food processor extremely useful in raw food and dessert making as well. You don’t always want your food cut too small, and the food processor is perfect for making batters, cracker and raw bread mixtures, chunky dips and sauces such as salsa and pesto and also for making cake crusts and energy bars. When you add the crust ingredients, usually nuts, dates, sweeteners, coconut oil etc. you will achieve that crumbly biscuit consistency which is perfect for the crust.

 

My recommendation on a food processor would be a Magimix, again a bit of an investment, but extremely high quality, very robust and guaranteed for 5 years. You could spend less and there are an abundance of food processors out there, but if you are using one often, it may not last that long if the quality is not great. If you feel that you will be using the machine a lot, it is probably worth going for a higher quality machine.

When shopping for a food processor, consider power, portability and functionality. They vary in size from a miniature two-cup chopper to a 20-cup professional model for bulk cooking and preparation. Buy a food processor which matches your particular needs. Most home cooks could use a medium-size food processor (approximately 8-10 cup capacity) for family recipes.

Other good food processors include:

• The Kenwood Range
• Kitchen Aid Processors

When choosing either a blender or a food processor, it is important to do your research and read reviews so as to gauge what is suitable for your needs. It may be the case that you feel it unnecessary to buy both a blender and a food processor, deciding that one of the two is enough for you needs.

In an upcoming post, I will continue to discuss what equipment is necessary to start a raw food kitchen including a dehydrator, juicer and other essentials. Don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter where i’ll be sharing more raw food education, tips and recipes. Sign up here. Become a fan on Facebook and receive a FREE raw food recipe ebook. Click here.

What Is Raw Food?

I feel that the best place to start is to talk about what raw food actually is. Responses I get when I tell people that I eat raw food include ‘you mean sushi?’ or ‘do you just eat salads?’ I suspect that many people think of raw food as quite a limited and restrictive way of eating. It is true that when following the raw food lifestyle, meat, wheat, dairy and refined sugar tend not present in the diet, but the idea that a raw food lifestyle is restrictive could not be further from the truth. There are a vast array of nourishing and wonderful foods that can be enjoyed, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts and grains and huge versatility and creativity are involved in the preparation and assembly of raw food dishes.

Raw foods are defined as any food that has not been heated above a certain temperature, around 45°C, as above this temperature, vital enzymes in the food are destroyed. These enzymes carry out many important functions, such as helping to digest food, producing substances important for healthy cell functioning and helping transport of substances and nutrients around the body. Without the enzymes present, these important functions cannot be carried out as effectively and the body also needs to expend more energy producing the enzymes that were not present in the food.

I enjoy eating raw food, as it doesn’t feel to me that there is the same sort of restrictions as there are with so many other diets. It feels like more of a lifestyle choice. For me a big part of eating should be about enjoyment and attributing positive memories to our dining experiences. I challenge any of you to look back on positive memories in your life and I bet a lot of them were centred around eating and enjoyment of food. There are a huge variety of different ways in which raw food can be made. I will be posting blog posts in the coming weeks and months outlining techniques, tips and recipes that I have learnt and how you can use them to simply and easily prepare raw food dishes that are tasty, nourishing and satisfying.

Eating raw foods have had a massive positive impact on my health, including increased energy and focus, improved digestion, better skin, more consistent moods and highly reduced incidence of illness. At this point I would like to stress that I am not advocating anyone to move to a totally raw food diet, either straight away or at any point. Raw food has had enormous benefits for me, but it was not an overnight success. For me, and I suspect, for the vast majority of us, our bodies to a greater or lesser extent, have a level of toxicity, accumulated over years of poor eating habits. So it may be the case that even someone starts eating super healthily, they may not be seeing the benefits of this, as their ability to assimilate some or all of these nutrients may be impaired. I will talk more in an upcoming article about what can be done to naturally cleanse the body and how this can have huge positive impact on health and wellbeing.

I am running a series of Raw Food workshops focusing on different cuisines from around the world. Starting this Friday 21st September in Queens Park, London from 7-10pm. Join me for an educational and delicious journey into raw Italian cuisine.

For more details and to confirm your place please email:
irene@blissbites.co.uk
rich@therawfoodscompany.com
or go to http://raw-world-series.eventbrite.com/

Don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter where i’ll be sharing more raw food education, tips and recipes. Sign up here.

Become a fan on Facebook and receive a FREE recipe ebook. Click here.