Making your own chocolates from scratch is surprisingly simple, and when you make your own you are in control of the all of the ingredients you use as well as the quality of those ingredients.
Making chocolates is also a great way to start incorporating different superfood powders and herbal extracts so you can easily turn your chocolate treat into a nutrient-dense medicinal food!
Here is one of my favourite chocolate recipes, however, once you try making them yourself you will easily be inspired to start coming up with your own flavour and superfood combinations.
Enjoy ! :)
Orange Coconut Chocolates:
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup cacao butter (melted)
2-3 tbsp dark maple syrup, coconut syrup, or yacon syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder (or natural vanilla extract)
3 tbsp shredded coconut (sugar- and preservative-free)
1/2 tsp Simply Organic Orange Oil
Melt cacao butter in the dehydrator or over low heat on the stove-top. In a bowl, add melted cacao butter and stir in remaining ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
Pour chocolate into moulds and set in freezer for 5-10 minutes. Store in the refrigerator or on countertop in airtight container.
Anxiety can occur as an acute episode of highly intense feelings of stress that overwhelm the individual (such as panic attacks), or as more generalized chronic feelings of stress, uneasiness and being wound-up.
Chronic anxiety can often include headaches, chronic fatigue, insomnia, digestive distress, muscle tension, dry mouth, excessive perspiration, increased heart beat, and may cause you to startle easily.
Over time, too much stress and anxiety will age you faster because they put your body into 'emergency mode' - where your energy is diverted away from maintenance and repair and towards physically having to react to the stressful event.
Here are my Top 3 Tips for Reducing Anxiety:
1. Upgrade Your Diet:
Reduce (or avoid completely) your intake of stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and refined carbohydrates like sugar, baked goods, and white bread. Eat a nutrient-dense whole-food diet in order to balance out blood sugar levels throughout the day and prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies of B complex vitamins, iron, taurine, magnesium, and chromium can all lead to increased feelings of anxiety and decreased ability to adapt to stress. Other biochemical imbalances that can lead to anxiety include low histamine/high copper, lactic acid build-up, and undiagnosed food allergies.
2. Use Calming Herbs and Nutrients:
GABA, Passionflower, Magnesium, and Valerian all promote a calming effect in the body and can be very useful when trying to reduce anxiety. Some of these supplements do interact with medications, and GABA for example needs to be avoided if you drink alcohol. Always check with your health care provider before taking any of these supplements. There are some great combination formulas available that combine many of these herbs and nutrients. Adaptogenic herbs are another great option, especially if you experience a lot of stress.
3. Grow Your Inner Garden:
Balance your gut bacteria with fermented foods, and a wide variety of plant-based whole-foods. We are starting to find out how the balance and types of gut bacteria we have greatly influences our neurotransmitter levels and nutrient absorption.
Read More About the Gut-Brain Connection:
It can be overwhelming to try to jump into this yourself and there are numerous benefits to working one-on-one with a nutritionist, such as individualized recommendations, support, and help with deciphering the confusing and conflicting health information out there.
Book your complimentary 15 Min Discovery Call today to find out how I can best support your health goals.
This TED Talk about stress, biochemistry and work-life balance is one of my favourites. It not only highlights how much pressure we put on ourselves but also clearly explains what happens to our hormones when we are continuously operating in 'fight or flight' mode and how this affects our weight, mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.
I can very much relate to this –– it is very easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and forget to dedicate some time to essential rest and relaxation. This is all too common, especially for us entrepreneurs, so this video is a great reminder to take better care of ourselves and learn how to avoid 'burn-out'.
This is extremely important, because if our life is not balanced between work and rest then we won't have the energy to do the things we love.
There is a big price to be paid for constantly running off of adrenaline and cortisol as it leads to hormone imbalances, infertility, lack of quality sleep, low energy, mood imbalances, and impedes healthy weight management (the body doesn't want to burn fat when we are in constant 'fight or flight' mode). It is easy to constantly be working but this is not sustainable or healthy.
This is a topic that my clients often ask me for help with. It is all too common for women entrepreneurs to end up in this unhealthy cycle of adrenal fatigue and then relying on coffee and sugar just to get through the day.
If this sounds like you and you would like to learn about specific foods, herbs, and lifestyle factors to support and balance your stress levels, just click on the link below and book your complimentary 15 Minute Discovery Call.
This month's Q&A comes from my sister Megan Barker from Coaching By Megan, she wanted to interview me about my thoughts on the meal replacement Soylent.
Megan: As a entrepreneur and a business coach, my time and energy are very valuable. I was recently chatting with a friend about this and how some people struggle with maintaining a healthy, balanced diet when they are super busy. My friend then went on to tell me how she started using Soylent as a meal replacement. I had never heard of it before so I had a quick look at the ingredients but didn't think this would be a product you would recommend. What are your thoughts on using Soylent as a meal replacement?
Shawna: This is a very timely topic. Although this product has been out for a few years, there was a recent article in the Globe and Mail about a chef's perspective on the product and the ingredients he would change to improve the flavour. However, for this article we are going to look at the ingredients in terms of nutrition and health. Since I looked into the ingredients when the product first came out, I have been very vocal to my clients and students about why it is important to avoid this product, and then teaching them about healthier alternatives.
Megan: Okay that's what I thought. So what is it about the ingredients that aren't good for us?
Shawna: The main ingredient is soy protein isolate which is very hard to digest (soy should always be sprouted or fermented first in order to fully digest) and because it isn't organic soy it may be highly contaminated with the herbicide glyphosate - which is classified as a 'probable carcinogen' by the World Health Organization.
Megan: This is very concerning, especially since on the Soylent website they mention that it was formulated by a medical doctor. Why do you think they would be okay with these ingredients?
Shawna: Well many medical doctors, and even dieticians, do not look at the benefits of the whole food or take into account how different foods are digested and what happens after digestion. Throughout my entire 5 years of studying nutrition at UBC this is what I experienced, basically the focus is on the numbers of a handful of nutrients and not the whole food, or how the food is grown and prepared, or digested and absorbed. With food we know for a fact that 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'.
Megan: Okay so we covered the first ingredient but there is a whole paragraph of ingredients. What else should we be aware of?
Shawna: The next ingredient is maltodextrin from corn, this ingredient is used as a thickening agent. Basically it is just shorter pieces of starch, which then breaks down into glucose once it is digested. Here the concern is due to the quality of the starting material, that it quickly turns into sugar in the body, and can negatively effect the good gut bacteria.
Megan: So far I am just really confused about how this even got approved as a healthy drink, especially as a meal replacement! Do the other ingredients at least supply some nutrition?
Shawna: Well it's really just more starches, gums, thickeners, and fillers; basically what I call 'non-foods'. Plus canola oil which may have been oxidized during processing, meaning the free radicals created may contribute to inflammation in the body.
Megan: So how did it meet the nutrient requirements to be able to be called a meal replacement?
Shawna: With the addition of isolated vitamins and minerals. These cheap forms of vitamins and minerals are not absorbed by the body very well. In other words they have low bioavailability. Nobody should rely on these synthetic vitamins and minerals for their nutrition. This product contains 26 added vitamins and minerals. This is just a handful of the nutrients we are supposed to get from food and it will never be able to replace the 100's of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants that exist in real, whole foods.
Megan: What about the sweeteners and flavours?
Shawna: The flavours are coming from 'natural and artificial flavours' and it contains the artificial sweetener sucralose. Sucralose has been linked to decreased levels of good bacteria in the large intestine. This may not sound like much but it is actually very important because our health is dependant on the health of our gut microbiome.
Megan: So what is your final take-home message.
Shawna: I do not recommend Soylent and other similar 'meal replacement' drinks. They promote inflammation, may contain glyphosate, may be difficult to digest, and may cause havoc to the gut microbiome.
Megan: What would be a good alternative for busy entrepreneurs to maintain their health while saving time?
Shawna: Smoothies from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds are actually really easy to make and taste delicious! If you would like to ensure they contain a full range of vitamins and minerals you can add a whole-food supplement powder.
Interested in learning more? Book a complimentary 15 Min Discovery Call with Shawna.
Mint Moringa Smoothie
3 ripe banana
1 tbsp Organic Traditions Moringa Powder
1/4 cup fresh mint (loosely packed)
1 cup spinach
1-3 dates or other sweetener of choice
2 cups water
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with strawberry and mint.
Moringa is a very nutrient-dense leafy green from a tree that grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas such a Africa, India, and Latin America. The leaf contains many antioxidants in addition to the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids and has been researched for many of its health benefits.
I use the powder at home but when I am in Mexico I always enjoy green juices with fresh moringa!
The new documentary 'Food Choices' was released on September 2nd 2016 and you can bet I rented it that very same day! I am always so excited when new food documentaries come out because I know they can have such a positive impact in people's lives. I was especially intrigued by this one in particular because not only does it look at the effects of food choices on our individual health but also the health of the environment and the other living species on this planet.
"Join award-winning filmmaker Michal Siewierski on his three-year journey to expose the truth about our food choices. This ground-breaking documentary explores the impact that food choices have on people’s health, the health of our planet and on the lives of other living species. And also discusses several misconceptions about food and diet, offering a unique new perspective on these issues. Featuring interviews with 28 world-renowned experts, including Dr. T Colin Campbell, Joe Cross, Dr. John McDougall, Capitan Paul Watson, Dr. Pam Popper, Dr. Michael Greger, Rich Roll, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Dr. Toni Bark and several others. This film will certainly change the way you look at the food on your plate."
I hope you enjoy the trailer and get a chance to watch the entire movie.
Lemon Berry Avocado Pudding
2 medium avocados
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup yacon syrup or maple syrup
1 tsp Simply Organic Lemon Extract
1/4 cup Organic Traditions Antioxidant Berry Blast Powder
2-4 tbsp water or almond milk
Add all ingredients to a food processor, NutriBullet, or Vitamix and blend until smooth.
Adjust the amount of sweetener to your preference. Adjust amount of liquid to desired consistency. Garnish with strawberries and coconut chips.
Gut microbiome research is a fascinating area of nutritional science and has even been called the "future of medicine".
The bacteria that live on our skin and in our digestive system outnumber our cells by 10 to 1, so it makes sense that the health of our microbiome is so essential for our overall wellbeing.
This is an excellent presentation introducing the many reasons why this research is extremely important and how we can support the health of our microbiome.
There are many steps we can take to maintain the health of our microbiome, including:
1. Eat unpasteurized fermented foods on a regular basis. I try to include a serving of fermented vegetables in either my lunch or dinner or sometimes both! Examples of unpasteurized fermented foods are: sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, water kefir, and home-made coconut yogurt. *Avoid fermented foods if you have histamine intolerance. Please email me if you would like to learn more.
2. Eat organic and Non-GMO to avoid pesticide residue.
3. Eat plant-based whole-foods. Many types of fibre contained in these foods are prebiotics that help build and maintain proper microbiome balance.
4. Limit your consumption of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates since these are the preferred food for non-beneficial yeasts and bacteria - the kind we don't want.
5. Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. If you must use antibiotics, it may be helpful to follow up after with a high quality probiotic supplement to help rebuild the population of good bacteria in the intestines.
6. Live dirty! Spend time in nature, play in the soil, and garden. Try not to over-sanitize your indoor environment with antibacterial sprays and cleansers. Of course this is best if done from an early age in order to strengthen and train the immune system, but if you are healthy and do not have a compromised immune system then it is never to late to start. Training of the immune system from a young age is an important factor for the prevention of autoimmune conditions, where the immune system confuses our own cells with something that needs to be attacked.
I hope you enjoy the video!
Feel free to book a complimentary 15-min Discovery Call if you would like one-on-one support for 'growing your inner garden' and improving your digestion, mental clarity, and energy levels.
Coconut Macaccino Smoothie
2 cups coconut water (approx. one coconut)
1/2 cup coconut meat (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp Organic Traditions Macaccino Powder (blend of cacao, maca, vanilla, coconut sugar)
2-4 dates, pitted and soaked for at least 20mins (can add soak water to smoothie) - adjust depending on the sweetness you prefer
Open young coconut, pour water into blender, and then scoop out and rinse the coconut meat. Add rinsed coconut meat to blender and add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Garnish with strawberry or orange slice.
Everyone, regardless of whether or not they are vegan, needs to be aware of any nutrient deficiencies they may experience due to an unbalanced diet and/or poor digestive function - you are not what you eat, you are what you absorb!
The need for supplements is definitely not limited to vegans, however, for the purpose of this article we will focus on some of the deficiencies that may develop if a vegan diet is not properly balanced.
The discussion of supplements for vegans is not an argument for vegan diets being unnatural, because many omnivores also have deficiencies. Personally, I would rather take a couple supplements and be super healthy and full of energy than to avoid supplements in order to try and prove that vegan diets are our natural diet (since doing extensive research for teaching the Evolution of Cultural Diets this may be a topic for a future post!). It is interesting to note that the animals people consume are fed a supplemented diet and dairy is also fortified with many nutrients, so an omnivorous diet relies on supplementation as well.
Please note, not all supplements are created equal and are never meant to replace a healthy balanced whole-food diet.
Here Are The Top Nutrients To Be Aware Of And The Best Ways To Meet Your Needs:
Vitamin B12 - if you eat packaged foods that are fortified with B12 you will be getting trace amounts, however, I still recommend a sublingual methylcobalamin supplement, especially if you eat a lot of seaweed and algae - these foods are great and there is no reason not to eat them but they do contain B12 analogues which can bind to and block B12 absorption.
Vitamin D3 - there are now lichen-sourced vegan D3 supplements available. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it is best to supplement 1000IU from October - March (or even a higher dose if you have low levels - work with your ND to determine your individual dosage), and perhaps continuing with a lower dose in the summer if you do not spend enough time outside.
DHA/EPA - these are the long-chain active forms of omega-3. Chia, flax, hemp, and walnuts do contain ALA omega-3 but the body has to convert this form into DHA and EPA and the conversion rate is very low. Definitely try to eat lots of omega-3 rich foods but I also recommend an algae-sourced DHA/EPA supplement for some people. They are available in capsule or liquid form.
Iron - if you are eating a wide variety of plant-foods and don't have any digestive issues it shouldn't be difficult to get enough iron. However, if you know you are low from getting a blood test done, then look for an iron bisglycinate supplement that also has vitamin C.
Calcium - again, if the diet lacks variety (especially dark leafy greens) or there are issues with digestion (both iron and calcium require sufficient stomach acid in order to be absorbed) then you may need to look into supplementation. It is beneficial to find an algae-based calcium supplement combined with D3, K2, and trace minerals. Otherwise, a vegan diet with lots of leafy greens, nuts, and seeds should supply enough calcium.
Iodine - seaweeds and iodized table salt contain iodine, however, if you do not consume much of these foods it might be worth it to start adding iodized salt or take a supplement. Unrefined sea salt and Himalayan rock salt contains only trace amounts so it is best not to rely on these as a source. Seaweeds contain varying amounts so you never really know how much you are getting.
Cholesterol - we need cholesterol, it is so important in fact that our liver, and many other cells in the body produces it. Plant-foods do not contain cholesterol, however, when a vegan diet includes enough healthy fats and our liver is functioning properly then we will be able to produce all the cholesterol we need. Deficiencies may develop on extremely low-fat vegan diets.
Vitamin K2 - we can get lots of K1 from leafy greens but K2 is a bit harder to come by (Natto - a very fermented soy product contains K2). However, when we have a healthy balance of beneficial intestinal bacteria then these bacteria can produce enough K2. To support a healthy intestinal microbiome it is important to eat fermented foods as well as eat a wide variety of fibre-rich plant foods. Certain types of fibre are the food for intestinal bacteria, they are known as prebiotics. If dysbiosis (unbalanced or low beneficial intestinal bacteria) is present or if there are issues with bone density it may be advisable to take a K2 supplement.
If you have any questions feel free to book a Complimentary 15min Discovery Call.
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist specializing in vegan diets.