SalmonBerry

Posts Tagged ‘dates’

Happy Gut, Happy You

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on July 11, 2013 at 12:27 am
gooey chocolate cookie

Gooey, chocolatey, sugar bomb.

Gloomy weather, stressful relationships, lack of sleep, can all affect our sense of well-being and kick sugar cravings into high gear. Mindlessly giving in on just a few occasions only intensifies our cravings and the vicious cycle begins. Why do we turn to sugar when we are feeling anxious and stressed? Perhaps conditioning – for some, sweets are associated with reward or comfort. Or perhaps it’s physiology – adequate amounts of carbohydrates allow for increased seratonin production, aka the “feel-good hormone”.

What does this have to do with your gut? Well, it turns out the GI tract produces 95% of our body’s seratonin! Taking care of our gut allows GI cells to produce all the seratonin we need. In turn, we will be less likely to turn to sugar when we’re sad, lonely, anxious, and stressed.chocolate bars

In a another post, I discussed beneficial foods for our gut – fiber and fermented foods. The question begs: “Are there foods that are harmful to gut health?” Yup, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it…Sugar! Sugar provides fuel for certain gut bacteria to proliferate far beyond what is healthy leading to a bacterial imbalance. So, even if we consume adequate fiber, we won’t have enough beneficial bacteria to fuel our GI cells. They’ve been outcompeted by other, less-helpful bacteria due to sugar-induced overgrowth.

What are the consequences of GI cells not getting the fuel they need? At the very least, you will have gas and bloating or, worse, suffer from anxiety and depression.

packaged veggies

Pre-washed and chopped veggies. High in fiber. The fuel our GI cells need.

Our gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it has its own complex nervous system and is highly influenced by our thoughts and psychological stress. Most of us know this on an intuitive (and experiential) level and certainly Traditional Chinese Medicine and other healing traditions have recognized this for generations. Finally, western medicine has acknowledged the huge role our gut plays in our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Recent research has shown that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut alters brain chemistry leading it to become more bold or more anxious. Alternately, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making us more vulnerable to infectious disease.

What is sugar? It is a carbohydrate of which there are 2 general categories: indigestible (fiber) and digestible (everything else). Your body does not absorb fiber but your colon uses it for many healthy functions (as discussed here). Digestible carbs are those used by your body for energy – or, if you are taking in more energy than you are expending, they are stored (in your fat cells).

To balance your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and keep your gut bacteria in balance, remember these 3 things when consuming carbs/sugars:

dates

Deglet dates. Often used to sweeten desserts but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Limit added sugars. Most added sugars are refined carbohydrates meaning it has been stripped of other nutrients and comes in a potent package that is a shock to our bodies. Added sugars include the “natural” sugars, too. Remember, “its not the vehicle, its the payload.” Use sweeteners sparingly – even honey and dates.

Eat carbohydrates higher up on the “whole foods” chain.

What does this look like?

Brown rice -> brown rice pasta/bread -> energy bar w/ brown rice syrup

Apples -> applesauce  -> apple juice

Steel cut oats -> rolled oats -> quick oats -> instant oatmeal packet

peppers, goat cheese, bread

Red peppers with goat cheese and honey on toast. Balanced protein, fat, and carbs.

Combine carbs with fat and protein at each meal. Toss sunflower seeds and unsweetened coconut on that fruit salad. Mash avocado on whole-grain toast. Add flax oil and walnuts to your banana-berry oatmeal.

Curb your sugar cravings: easy on the salt and animal products, eat sweet vegetables (tubers and roots), choose sprouted products, eat more sour or spicy flavors, and, finally, fully chew all carbs b/c those grains, legumes, and veggies will become sweeter the longer you chew.

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Coconut-Berry Cheesecake

In Nutrition, Recipe, Yoga on July 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm

coconut-berry cheesecakeI got this recipe from Yoga_Girl’s Instagram feed. She’s adorable, inspiring, and positive…I totally recommend following her if you’re into beautiful yoga and healthy living. I made this recipe into mini, bite-size cheesecakes for the Salmonberry Open House last Friday and although I feel they turned out yummy, the recipe needs refinement as the crust is a bit too crumbly. Unfortunately, I won’t be doing much recipe development or experimentation this summer as I’ve closed down the Salmonberry studio and kitchen for a bit. I’m renting my house to vacationers and will be living with friends or family until mid-August. This is both discombobulating and freeing all at once. The usual structure – both physical and metaphorical – that I’m used to working under has been totally dismantled and I’m still trying to get both feet on the ground. I am currently located in Encinitas, CA – the birthplace of  Ashtanga yoga in the US, home to the Self-Realization Fellowship, and largest grower of poinsettias –  which is not helping me get more grounded. I’m feeling light, airy, creative, and, well, exhausted. It’s also unusually humid and warm here in SoCal adding to sluggish-ness of body and over-stimulation of mind. Suger cravings kick in for me when I’m feeling like this which is interesting b/c carbs, especially refined carbs, only exacerbate feelings of flighty-ness and spacey-ness (are those words?!). I really should be eating legumes and dairy to ground me but the weather makes me want to eat raw veggie salads. So I panic and eat sweet foods – ugh! Raw, vegan coconut-berry cheesecake is definitely a “sweet food” but can provide grounding with it’s healthy fats and protein from nuts, seeds, and oils. When it comes to indulging in sweet foods and desserts , these mini-cheesecakes are a pretty good choice. Sweet, tart, and nutty and only require time, a processor, patience, and a freezer. Works just as well as a large pie for slicing.

Crust Ingredients:

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup dates

1 TBSP coconut oil

Combine all crust ingredients and process until smooth. Press into pie pan or individual mini muffin tin. Freeze for 1-2hrs.

party foodFilling Ingredients:

3 cups cashews (soaked)

1/2 cup unsweetened, coconut flakes

1 tsp vanilla

4 tsp coconut oil

8-10 dates

1-2 lemons, juiced

Pinch of salt

Process all ingredients until very smooth and creamy. Spread over crust and freeze for 2 hrs.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s frozen Very Cherry Berry Mix (defrosted)

4-6 dates

1 lemon, juiced

Berry mix must be fully defrosted and not at all cold or the dates will harden and nothing will mix well. Put all topping ingredients in processor and puree till liquified. Top frozen pie with berry mixture and freeze for 3-4hrs. Defrost for 20 minutes before serving and enjoying.

Salmonberry Bars

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

salmonberry barI never liked PowerBars. I didn’t like the taffy-like texture or artificial flavor. Trail mix wasn’t hip enough and was way too ubiquitous during my childhood in the 70s. So I was really excited when the ClifBar was invented. In the 90s, I did a lot of backpacking and ate a lot of ClifBars. Then I realized, maybe I should be eating LunaBars, they’re for women, right? Those quickly became sickeningly sweet and aren’t even remotely healthy so I gave up on bars altogether until…the Larabar. Just dates, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe some spices. Simple and healthy and my kids loved them too. Recently, I discovered that Larabar was bought by General Mills who is against GMO labeling and just generally has some crappy products they try to sell as “food” (2 thumbs up for Cheerios, though!).

I prefer to buy from local companies with whom I agree on issues that are important to me (you may not care about GMOs or the consolidation of food production/manufacturing). Anyway, I’ve found two locally-made bars that get the ‘healthy’ nod when my kids ask to eat them: Perfect Foods Bar and Earnest Eats. in processorNow I’ve attempted to make my own bar based on my taste preferences and maniacal need to make everything healthier. Introducing the Salmonberry Bar!

Things got a bit sketchy and I was skeptical about my ability to pull these off. But I totally surprised myself with this one. Not too sweet and with some subtle, sophisticated flavors…watch out KindBars, I’m taking over the local Starbucks – ha!

Process until smooth:

1/2 cup pitted dates

1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or peanut butter

1/2 cup honey

Add: ~3/4 cups hot water, to thin mixture

bar ingredientsAdd in the following:

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp finely ground espresso

1 tsp allspice

2 TBSP chia seeds

2 TBSP finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

Add and process lightly:

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup cashews

Remove mixture from processor and into mixing bowl with:

2 cups rolled oats or buckwheat groats

Mix well with wooden spoon and spread mixture on greased, baking sheet. Press down with greased spatula so mixture is about 1/4-inch high.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

After baking, sprinkle with sesame seeds and press them into mixture with the back of a greased spatula. Let cool completely and cut into 1-inch-squares. Makes ~30 bars.

1 bar = 167 kcals, 4g protein, 9g fat, 2g fiber, 13g total carbs, 8g sugars

I would’ve have preferred this bar to be higher in fiber but I feel good about the sugars (from honey & dates). The texture is perfect and it is only mildly sweet and very filling. However, the clean-up was a pain (goopy dates and nut butter stuck to my processor blade!). I honestly don’t know if it was worth the effort in the kitchen because I spotted these in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for only $7.99/pound: Carob Energee Nuggets. They are almost exactly the same nutritionally and look eerily similar to my bars…has someone been spying on the Salmonberry kitchen??

carob energeen nuggets nutrition

Same calories, fat, carbs, protein, & fiber.

carob energee bars

Looks – and tastes – delicious!

Choco-Chia Nut Spheres

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 3, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I just couldn’t use the word ‘balls’. Again, more chia and coconut (easy, affordable, healthy fats, high fiber). Almonds add healthy fats, protein, and more fiber. All these ingredients can be found in the bulk aisle. If you are shopping at a market that does not have a bulk aisle, perhaps you should find your way to one that does as these markets tend to have healthier food options. Yes, these are a kind-of glorified trail mix but are healthier than a highly-processed energy bar and serve the same purpose. Use as a tea-time dessert or as a great post-workout snack.

nut spheresIngredients:

1.5 cups dates – pitted

1/2 cup water

3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2.5 TBSP chia seeds

2 cups almonds (if you use raw almonds, chop a bit first or it’s gonna be hell on your processor. If you don’t care about the recipe being raw then use tiny roasted & salted ones)

Coconut flakes (unsweetened)

Dash of cinnamon and/or cayenne

In a food processor, purée pitted dates and water until a sticky paste forms. Add cocoa powder. Add chia seeds and almonds in batches to create solid dough. Shape mixture into TBSP-sized balls and roll in coconut or cocoa powder. Refrigerate for 30mins. Makes ~25 spheres.

1 sphere = 88 kcals + 6g fat + 3g protein + 2g fiber