Category Archives: Superfoods

H’av-ocado

AvocadoPhoto_thumb

 

For those of you that know me you will know I am never far from an avocado… I often have them on my desk, in my handbag or rolling around the kitchen counter. I am currently working on a post about the health benefits of avocado so watch out for that but in the mean time I wanted to share some of my favourite ways of eating avocado.

Firstly, it makes a brilliant breakfast! I love it on toast since the texture of a ripe avocado is buttery and this is why avocado makes an excellent replacement for butter in healthy baking (perfect for dairy-free or vegan cooking). Seasoned with freshly ground salt and pepper, a sprig of basel and a few roasted cherry tomatoes makes a divine and filling breakfast. Another breakfast idea is using a firm avocado slice as a replacement for bread in eggs Benedict which is perfect for those following a gluten-free or Paleo diet. Eggs and avocado is a delicious and nutritious combination!

One of my favourite avocado recipes is avocado stuffed with prawns and this makes a brilliant dinner party starter. I like to add finely chopped tomato and red onion and drizzle with lime juice. Beetroot, salads or rice dishes also make good a stuffing. Another good starter or a light refreshing dinner on a hot summer evening is avocado and cucumber gazpacho – simply blend avocado, cucumber, vegetable stock, onion, garlic, coriander, lemon juice and seasoning and refrigerate for an hour before serving. Cherry tomato or sun-dried tomato and avocado kebabs make a great side dish at a BBQ. If you are not dairy-free, adding feta or mozzarella to these kebabs is a yummy addition.

My inner food obsessed Italian is a lover of pasta and pasta dishes are another great way to use avocados. The softness of ripe avocados is a wonderful alternative to more traditional sauces made with cream and the characteristic soft flavour of avocado goes brilliantly with a wide range of ingredients. One delicious pasta dish combines prawns, pine nuts, lime zest, chilli, and chopped coriander with a creamy avocado sauce. Pancetta, peas and parmesan shavings is another yummy option. If you are gluten free you can use brown rice or quinoa pasta.

Avocados are also a brilliant ingredient in healthy yet deliciously satisfying desserts. I’ve mentioned using avocado in baking but avocados can also be used to make a divine chocolate mousse which combines the creamy rich texture of ripe avocado with the intensely chocolately taste of cacao. Adding coconut oil adds an extra punch of fantastic nutrition. Raw honey, maple syrup or agave can be used to sweeten the mousse. Another good dessert recipe is frozen lime and avocado tartlets which are made by blending ripe avocado, ripe banana and lime juice in a blender until smooth creamy, adding this mixture to pre-baked tartlet cases and freezing for a few hours before serving. These can be served garnished with berries and a sprig of mint. Avocado can also be used to make a healthy and divinely creamy dairy-free ice-cream.

Avocados are also fantastic in smoothies – try blending ripe avocado with coconut milk and adding either cashew or a nut butter for a nutty avocado smoothie, frozen berries or tropical fruits like pineapple and mango for a deliciously sweet and fruity smoothie or cacao for a silky chocolate avocado smoothie.  For more vegetable based smoothies (so lower in sugar) try blending with spinach, cucumber and mint leaves.

Breakfasts, starters, soups, sides, main dishes and desserts. When it comes to the avocado the options are endless… Oh and did I mention that the avocado is one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet…? So maybe chuck one in your handbag too…

Advertisements

Is bee pollen all it is cracked up to bee?

Bee-pollen-supplements2-524x393

 

You may have heard that the latest “buzz” is bee pollen. Up there with the odder health foods I have come across, bee pollen consists of pollen that the bees have collected on their bodies mixed with, rather delightfully, bee saliva and enzymes. Intrigued by the countless and quite frankly too-good-to-be-true health claims relating to bee pollen I decided to do a little digging on the topic.

Bee pollen is not a natural component of any foods commonly consumed, including honey but it may be taken as a supplement in capsules or tablets or added to food in powder or granular form. On average, pollen contains 60% carbohydrates, 20% protein, 7% fat, 7% moisture (water) and 6% minerals. A 22.6% protein pollen has been shown to be a superior source of amino acids (when measured by dry weight percentage of crude protein) compared to a whole egg or to cow’s milk. As well as being rich in proteins and free amino acids, bee pollen is rich in B vitamins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and the trace minerals potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, selenium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, manganese. Many of its diverse health benefits are thought to due to its antioxidant, antifungal and antimicrobial compounds and flavonoids.

So far preliminary research has shown bee pollen may help to decrease PMS symptoms and improve symptoms of prostatitis in men. However, research is in its very early days and both these studies are small and not yet well replicated. Other potential uses identified so far include stimulating ovarian function, being used as a remedy for hay fever and allergies, weight-control, lowering high blood pressure, diabetes, endurance and energy, libido, mental function and health and beauty and many more, although at this point it is difficult to separate the hype from the scientific fact.

Another point of concern is that the exact component varies from batch to batch and by location since the pollen is unique to the plants the bee has visited and if pollen is collected from plants where pesticides and other chemicals are used then these will remain in the bee pollen that is consumed. Also, people with severe pollen or bee allergies, and pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use bee pollen under any circumstances

Overall, bee pollen is certainly a “superfood”, but as are most foods produced by Mother Earth before processing robs them of their super powers!  I would certainly think about supplementing with bee pollen if I had particular deficiencies. However, as with most supplements it would seem that quality is key and don’t believe every health claim you read…

Co Nutty for Coconut Oil

 

coconutoil

Coconut oil and I have lately been indulging in a serious love affair… I just can’t get enough of its delicious nutritious goodness – in my sweet dishes, in my savoury dishes, on my skin, in my hair and less intentionally on pretty much every surface and wall in my kitchen and bathroom. Not only is it an absolute “super food” with the most amazing health-boosting benefits you could ever hope to imagine, it also makes everything taste so damn good! I particularly love stirring it into my creamy porridge or using it in stir-fries or on roasted vegetables (especially on my favourite – sweet potato) and it has the advantage over olive oil that it is more stable at higher temperatures so releases less free radicals. It really is the superhero of the food world!

So the health benefits..oh gosh where to start! Yes coconut oil is a saturated fat but that absolutely does not mean it is bad for us. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, rather than the long chain ones associated with the negative effects of saturated fat. These medium chain fatty acids are metabolised in a different way and actually prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure making coconut oil fantastic for heart health.

Coconut oil also boosts our metabolism meaning we increase the amount of energy our bodies’ burn, aiding weight loss. Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce sugar cravings and hunger. Several studies published in Obesity Research have reported its weight loss effects, in particular a reduction in stomach fat. Coconut oil also protects against insulin resistance, reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes and having great potential to help with PCOS which is often related to insulin resistance.

Coconut oil also has a high content of antimicrobial lipids which have fantastic antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial benefits to help boost the immune system and can be applied to wounds to help prevent infection and promote healing.

One of coconut oil’s more exciting health benefits (because I do love the brain…!) is it provides an incredible fuel for our brain and has drastic positive effects on our cognitive performance and focus. Recent evidence even suggests that coconut oil can be used to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.

To avoid this post becoming a coconut oil worshipping essay I will list the other health benefits: it is fantastic for energy levels, it boosts digestion and our ability to absorb key nutrients, it is a great anti-inflammatory, it can help balance hormone levels so can be used to boost ovulation and conception, it prevent fat build up in our liver…I really could go on but I must move on to its beauty uses.

Coconut oil is just as happy living in the bathroom as it is in the kitchen and before long you will have a pot in both rooms just as I do! Coconut oil is hands down the most awesome moisturiser I have used and makes a fantastic all natural (and purse-friendly) night cream. You also smell exotically divine! It can be used to treat acne and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis – both conditions which can be made worse by the excessive chemicals we load on to our skin using conventional skin care products! I suffered with those little red bumps on the backs of my arms and it cleared that up within days. I have recently started using coconut oil to remove make-up and I love the fact it is so gentle and totally natural. It also makes a great after-sun or massage oil, an brilliantly conditioning hair-mask and can be used to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.

Coconut oil is easy to find, and unlike most health foods there isn’t a huge range between the quality of different brands – they’re almost all awesome! Do try to find one which is raw, unrefined ‘virgin’ oil in order to get all these awesome health benefits – this can be more expensive, but each jar lasts a few months and it’s really worth every penny! Some of my favourite brands in the UK are Neal’s Yard, Lucy Bee, Biona and Tiana. So get a pot and co nutty for coconut oil!