The Sacred Centre

sharing – daring – caring – writing from the heart

Category: Food and Nutrition

Mindfulness in Reality

So how do I integrate the practices of mindfulness I had learned at Plum Village into my daily life? Whereas it is possible while I make an effort, it is also more difficult than I had thought. 

While on holiday one has time and it is easier to fully dedicate myself to meditate, slow down and relax. But back at home in every day life, there is always something that needs to be done which causes distractions followed by stress.

Even though I take the time to sit and breathe, my mind wants to carry on planning the day and get things done. And it really doesn’t help that I have loads of photos to sort through and a very slow computer to do it with! 🙂

I’m loosing all my mindfulness over it… Does mindfulness require a good working computer?

Although I am generally more at ease and less stressed in most situations, I also feel that all my joy and excitement has fallen to the wayside, overshadowed by a soft blanket of peace and calm. My first day back at work was almost surreal, colleagues joked I look lost, asking whether I was away for too long and had forgotten what to do. How can I get back to being more actively joyful without directly toppling over into the cycle of mania and depression?

It is almost as if my body and mind are fighting to prevail over my soul. I notice pure anger welling up as my computer stops working once again… I scream out loud. Not mindful at all. I decide it is time for a new computer.

I see that the true lesson of mindfulness is not to master being mindful but to integrate mindfulness into daily life. And to not get upset or angry at our or other’s unmindful behaviour but to use our awareness to be more mindful in the future. Our behaviour will be noticed by others, who in turn will reflect it back to us. How would you like to be treated? Treat others the same!

Another new behaviour of mine is that I don’t feel like eating meat. After a week of wholesome vegan cuisine at Plum Village I am left wanting more of it and even feel repulsed at the thought of eating meat. It is almost like eating my own brother. At the same time I don’t like to call myself a vegetarian, it is so limiting. I have been eating meat since I came back, but I get less and less inclined to carry on, and more and more excited about trying vegan dishes. They are just so easy and delicious!

Interestingly, a lot of people assume that I already am vegetarian. When I ask what gave them the idea, they shrug their shoulders and say they just thought I was. Is it because most of my meals are vegetarian or because I eat a lot of salad, or because I promote raw chocolate? I don’t know, but does it matter?

Nope 🙂

To a mindful life and new ways of thinking!

Love
Anna

Linseed Tea

Why linseed tea? Because it’s good for ya 😉

I wanted it to be part of our Mini Retreats as a way to introduce others to its soothing and rehydrating properties. Most people know the small brown or golden linseeds and may have used linseed oil as a supplement to replenish their omega-3 levels, but not many have heard of it as tea.

I came across it first in Barbara Wren’s book “Cellular Awakening“, which addresses the natural healing processes of our bodies on a cellular level. A very interesting read! “The founding principle of cellular awakening is that any kind of stress is registered on the water component of the body as dehydration.” So stress registers in the body as dehydration and dehydration also causes stress in the body. This can become a vicious circle, hence the importance to keep our body hydrated. According to Barbara it is our colon that registers dehydration which is why we need to give this part of the body the clear message that we are hydrated. Our diet needs to be hydrating and reassuring to our colon.

This is what linseed tea does. It covers the intestinal walls with a mucous layer that acts similar to absorbent gel in hanging flower baskets which catches the water so that it doesn’t just run out when the soil is very dry. It gives the plant a chance to rehydrate by slowly giving the water back, which is the same as what the layer of linseed does to your intestinal walls.

Our body consists to about 70% of water, of which our brain alone is 80% water. If the brain isn’t hydrated enough we can’t function properly. Just like the brain can’t survive long without oxygen. Water itself is incredibly receptive to outside influences. This is addressed in our sound healing, which is also part of our retreat and which I have also written about. Check out Dr Masaru Emoto’s experiments with water!

Dehydration changes our body pH, which in turn makes us more acidic which then makes us more prone to illnesses. Sugar, which I am lecturing about a lot, also has a dehydrating effect on the body. If you can’t live without sugar yet, try at least to cut it down. You will feel much better straight away!

At first I thought that the taste of linseed tea was rather odd, but the more I drank, the more I cherished it, together with a plumper skin, less blemishes, less food cravings, a soothed intestinal tract and less reactions to my common food intolerances. It also helps to balance my blood sugar levels.

How to make your own linseed tea:
For 1 three day batch of tea.

1. Take 2 TBSP linseeds on 1 litre of water.

2. Bring to the boil, take off heat, leave to stand covered for 12 hours or overnight.

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Soak those seeds!

3. Bring to the boil, gently simmer for one hour and then strain off the seeds.

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Strain that gloop!

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Gloopy seeds – so much fun! 🙂

4. The fluid should now be a nicely gloopy consistency. That’s the bit that will help rehydrate your colon! The seeds can go on a compost if you have one, otherwise in the bin.

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Get that kettle boiling!

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Pour in the gloop!

5. Fill about  1/4 of your mug with the thickened fluid and top it up with hot water to make tea. You may want to use less of the thickened fluid if it is very thick because it can be a strange sensation trying to gobble it down 😉

Enjoy your tea and rehydrate!

6. Drink a cup of linseed tea about three to four times a day. Best is half an hour before a meal to prepare your gut.

7. Use and store remaining thickened fluid in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days, after which it will go off and taste funny.

A little bit on the seed itself: Linseed, also called flaxseed, is a food and fibre crop which grows in the cooler regions of the world. Until the nineteenth century, flax was predominantly used to produce cloth before cotton took over, although the fibres in flax are twice as strong. Linseed oil is not only very nutritious but also used in paints, varnishes, linoleum and printing inks. It is native to the area stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to India. A discovery of spun, dyed, and knotted wild flax fibres in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia shows that the plant was already in use by humans around 30,000 BC.

Both brown and golden linseeds have similar nutritional values and omega-3 fatty acids. You can either enjoy the seeds sprinkled directly over your muesli or in home made bread and obviously as tea. Excessive consumption of flax seeds with inadequate water is said to cause bowel obstruction. It is considered to have antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties and is used as a nutritional supplement because of its high levels of α-Linolenic acid (a particular form of omega-3 fatty acid).

Discover what linseed tea has in store for you! Either try making it yourself or come and sample it at one of our Mini Retreats!

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If you like to take part in a Mini Retreat in Eastbourne, UK, get in touch! Check out the dates for our retreats in 2013.

 

The sugar brain

Without realising the impact of my naive realisation, I had first compared my relationship to sugar with the alcohol and drug addiction of my ex-boyfriend a couple of years ago. Out of the blue did I say to someone in conversation: “Trying to come off sugar is just as bad as coming off heroin.” To which I received the reply:”Actually, heroin is out of your system after four days. It’s much more difficult to stop smoking.”

Read more about “The sugar brain“.

Cow’s Milk vs Goat’s Milk

I had previously mentioned the negative effect that cow’s milk can have on our system. This is mainly due to a lack of digestive enzymes in our gut, which we have more of when we are babies because we are breast-fed, yet not when we are grown up.

Last week I was asked why goat’s milk is better than cow’s milk, and I realized that I didn’t know the answer. Personally I know that I agree better with goat’s milk, but is that a good enough reason to say it is better overall?

Researching on the good old www, I found out that the fat molecules in goat’s milk are much smaller than those found in cow’s milk which makes it much easier to be broken down in the gut. Also, goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and is recommended if you are allergic to cow’s milk which is likely caused by the alpha S1 casein protein. Both human milk and goat milk lacks this protein. Goat’s milk also lacks lactalbumin, a protein found in cow’s milk that is responsible for the allergic response in many small children.

Goat’s milk is apparently very similar to human breast milk which would suggest a more natural approach to receiving necessary nutrients. Another advantage is that it contains vitamin A, which can be absorbed straight away by the body and plays a role in the function of vision, immune system, reproduction, bone metabolism, skin and cellular health. Although cow’s milk does contain vitamin A, it is often in the form of carotenoids, which need to be converted by the body first before they become vitamin A, adding an extra strain on our system.

Goat’s milk also has a higher content of riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, which helps in the metabolism of other minerals like proteins and carbohydrates and strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies. Surprisingly, goat’s milk also contains more protein and calcium than cow’s milk.

Last but not least, goat’s milk is also one of the best sources of bioorganic sodium, a mineral that assists in the production of enzymes in the stomach. A lack of bioorganic sodium can lead to digestive problems, bloating and even ulcers.

This information opened my eyes and adds a little bit more to my understanding why cow’s milk shouldn’t necessarily be our first choice. I don’t want to say that it is totally bad, however, the process it goes though nowadays is, as with any processed food, not good. Additionally, milk and related proteins, sugars (lactose), whey powder etc are mixed in with many commercially prepared meals which makes me suspicious as to how much our tolerance to cow’s milk can stretch.

Goat’s milk might have more fat and calories but also lightens your purse significantly more than cow’s milk. Yet, I personally think that it has a few good points over the common mass-produced cow’s milk and deserves to be tried and tested.

Happy discovery! 😉

Love
Anna

www.everything-goat-milk.com/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk.html
www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk.html

The Sugar Hangover

Presently I am feeling slightly queasy and mildly unwell. And despite my face only being slightly puffy and my nose only a little blocked, the overall tiredness, listlessness and ill feeling in my tummy are the common tell-tale signs that I am currently acting out a sugar hangover. And yes, I do vaguely remember reaching repeatedly into that luminous biscuit box and also unwrapping some chocolates hidden in mesmerizing colourful tinfoils.

In case you are wondering: sugar has been having an increasingly detrimental influence on me. I have been watching it for a few years now and already have previously written about it here. I even raised my hand and admitted that I am a sugar addict. But despite my awareness and my continuous effort to educate others about the damaging effect of the common white sugar on our health and wellbeing, I still find myself relapse again and again and again. It raises the question whether it is even a much bigger issue than even I had dared envisioning.

What is it that gives me this longing feeling of needing sugar and why can’t I control it despite repeat experiences that I will feel ill after?

As with all addictions, there is something else running in the background that might need to be addressed first. As I once was reprimanded by an insisting Irish catholic (no offence): “Only Jesus can fill that hole in you!” Well, I obviously preferred biscuits and chocolates.

Addiction in general terms is a compulsive recurring behaviour that is difficult to stop, despite harmful consequences. Biological or psychological factors may play a part here too. Researchers say that sugar and the taste of sweet is said to stimulate the brain by activating the same chemicals activated in the brain by the ingestion of heroin and morphine. Sugar stimulates the release of endorphins which makes us feel good. So when we’re stressed, we crave foods that trigger this sensation. However, if we try to cut it out of our diet, we can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Watch this sweet little poem about the sugarcane:

www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/grace-nichols-sugar-cane-poem-only/1360.html

Sugarcane is a tall growing grass, which mainly grows in warm southern regions of the globe. Interestingly, it is one of the largest crop produced in the world, with the main produce being sucrose which is being processed into other forms of sugar for food or ethanol for fuel production. It appears that sugar found its way around the world as an expensive sugar spice after the sweet reeds were discovered by Persians and Greeks in the 6th and 4th centuries BC in India. It wasn’t until after the 18th century that cane sugar became a world crop and arrived in the form of white granules in our kitchen cupboard.

Is that the reason why it is in nearly every prepared meal or snack on earth? Just for a cheap flavour adjustment? It is just unfortunate that the whole process of extraction, bleaching, filtering, heating, drying and the ultimate use in food products completely destroyed most properties that would have been good to start with. We are unwittingly made addicted to it because of the masses of it that we encounter in everyday food. Sucanat (sugar cane natural) or organic whole cane sugar is the most natural form of sugar because the juice of the sugarcane is simply evaporated at low heat. It can be found it in health food stores or online.

The glycemic index plays an important role too. High GI foods cause our blood sugar to soar up and drop down just as quickly. This is not good for our body and can not only lead to diabetes and obesity but also impacts on us with tiredness and lack of concentration hence we grab hold of the “next sugar fix”. Refined sugar has a GI of about 64, compared to raw sugar cane which has a glycemic index of  30 to 40. I only just heard of raw sugar cane juice which can be found in India, for example, but which I did not have the pleasure to try yet. It is packed with calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamins, antioxidants, proteins and fibres, to mention but a few.

Sugar is basically a naturally occurring substance in most fruits and vegetables. So are carbohydrates, which are a common food source said to give us energy, and also one that we crave for most. But carbohydrates are actually not an essential nutrient since our body can get all its energy from protein and fat. High carbohydrate foods are amongst others fruits, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and, guess what: sweets. Refined sugar is composed entirely of carbohydrates. We really do not need it to survive and it is also most likely linked to obesity and diabetes.

I found this article of great interest: www.processedfreeamerica.org/resources/health-news/405-the-truth-about-evaporated-cane-juice

I have a predisposition to compulsions that include food. It literally fills a hole in me when I feel anxious or stressed. Every single cell in my whole body gravitates towards those biscuits in times of need. I might not even be aware of any particular anxiety, but when I listen deeply, I can feel this subtle restlessness coursing through my bones. My anxiety unknowingly started somewhere in the middle of my teens and carries forward until today. It has been years since I last brought up a binge eating attack, following the guilt of eating way too many cakes and biscuits. I have learned, I am still learning and I will learn for the rest of my life. And what I learn, what you learn, what others learn will hopefully lead to a better understanding of ourselves and of how we behave and what we agree with best.

Many different sources claim that refined cane sugar has a negative effect on our health, and I totally agree, but don’t have any credibility or evidence other than my own experiences, to prove what I believe to be true. I believe that many many people out there are addicted to refined cane sugar and that most of their little niggling ailments will disappear should they be strong enough and withstand the felt need and longing to consume it. Just be aware that once you can live without it, don’t think just one won’t do you any harm! You will only relapse and will have to start the battle again.

I am working on it, swimming against the tide as much as I can. I actually don’t even buy any commonly mass produced chocolates or sweets and rather make my own raw chocolate with natural sweeteners. The pitfall presents itself at work, where there is always a tin of chocolates on the table. Most of the times I master the control needed to ignore it. Just sometimes, especially at certain times of the month, my body is just stronger than my mind, or maybe rather wildly out of control. But I am working on that too, in the hope that the world will one day come to its senses and rethink where we were coming from and where we are heading.

And now the authorities want to force us to consume genetically modified foods and on top of that change all food labelling so we really have no idea what we are eating anymore? It is better anyway to cook from scratch, just to find the time… 😉

Love
Anna

All Hallows Eve and Pandora’s Box

Halloween is upon us again and quite honestly I have really been looking forward to carving my pumpkin and making soup out of the orange flesh. Should I remark that I am nearly 30?

When I was younger, Halloween – as it is celebrated today – did not exist. I grew up in Germany and during my childhood years in the late 80s and early 90s I remember celebrating the common harvest festival or thanksgiving, though not to be compared with the American celebration. Long before “trick-or-treating”, I used to go round houses on St Martin’s Day (11 November) with a little home-made lantern, singing traditional songs and hoping to get a few pennies or sweets in return. Once, my lantern, equipped with a real candle, as you did back then, caught fire and left the lantern in a pile of ash and me in tears. Oh, bitter-sweet childhood.  Also, there is All Saints’ Day on November 1st, which is kind of the same tradition of remembering the dead, referring to All Hallows Eve.

It wasn’t until a few years later, then a riveting teenager, that I was very much into the history of witches and pagan customs and decided to have a fun night in with friends where we all dressed up and had a ball of a time. Of course I transformed myself into a witch. Way better than all the witches’ costumes around these days! This is my personal first instigated memory of Halloween.

Of course we heard more and more about it in American TV shows and I suspect that was the way how it finally encapsulated the rest of mainland Europe. Pandora’s Box had been opened and spilled it’s content all over the world. It is interesting though to learn that it actually originated in Ireland, where it is linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end” and is thought to have pagan roots. Ironically, it was “shipped over” to America with the many Irish settlers in the 19th century that set up base there and soon morphed into a yearly nationwide children’s event. From America it made its way back over to Europe, strangely starting with France (not so sure why, since the French usually don’t approve much of foreign customs) and from there spreading out to Germany and the rest of the world.

Personally, I’m not really bothered by all the hype, particularly the marketing side of it. But, following the tradition of giving thanks for the harvest at the end of the year and together with the mystic belief to ward off evil spirits, I thoroughly enjoy my own little ritual of carving and soup making.

Though the first time I tried pumpkin soup, I was repulsed! The bland flavour and slimy texture really didn’t do it for me at all. I needed a few more years to mature and carve my own very first pumpkin until the realisation set in that it is such a waste to just throw away all the remains. So off I went in search of a suitable, non-slimy and flavourful recipe for pumpkin soup.

Nowadays I don’t need the instructions anymore, I just do the following:

1. Take the biggest pot you have and fry a chopped onion in a little oil until soft.
2. Add 3 chopped cloves of garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
3, Chop all carved pumpkin flesh into small pieces and add to the onions.
4. Add chopped potatoes equal to the amount of a third of the pumpkin flesh.
3. Fill the pot with water until all pumpkin flesh and potatoes are well covered.
4. Season with salt, pepper and 2 or 3 bay leaves.
5. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the pumpkin flesh and potatoes are soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.
6. Puree the ingredients and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Take off the heat and add one or two teaspoons of mustard. Careful not to use too much!
8. Season to taste and enjoy with some crusty bread.

And after another few years of maturation I proceeded to use the pumpkin seeds as well. I rinse them under running water to get rid of as much stickiness as possible, place them onto a grease proof paper, coat them in oil and sprinkle with salt and dry them in the oven at about 130 Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes or longer if they are still too wet. It’s a great nibble for dark and cold evenings.

Happy Halloween!

Love
Anna

What Shall I Have For Breakfast Today?

Ah, another quiet Sunday that I am off work. But today I awoke half-heartedly at 7am with a rather insistent feeling of hunger. However, my eyes really didn’t want to open just yet, nor were my limbs particularly interested in engaging in any major activities.

After tossing and turning for another hour I finally gave in, thinking that I could be much more productive by pulling myself together and getting up and going instead of wasting time rolling from one side of the bed to the other. My hungry self finally convinced me that it was about time to enter the kitchen arena for some much needed fuel. Sleepily gazing into the cupboards and fridge I found nothing I fancied. And I really didn’t want yet another lazy banana milkshake, despite all the trimmings and possibilities open to the experienced DIY foodist that tries to avoid certain ingredients due to intolerances.

What did I fancy? Something more substantial than a shake, but common bread is not an option! Remember, it will make you feel slightly ill. Not worth it. Pitty that all my homemade bread had gone already, have to make more soon.

Suddenly I remembered a friend’s breakfast which consisted of a raw chocolate cake she had made which I terribly enjoyed together with a banana and some nut milk. With that in mind there was no stopping me and I mixed together my own raw chocolate breakfast cake with random wholesome ingredients that I found in the cupboards.

E voila, fantastic! It tasted just like chocolate flavoured cereals from the supermarket, just that little bit better. And the grand thing is that it is completely free from the common sugars and additives and full of natural flavours and ingredients. I added some crunchy honey granola oats (also free from the above) and a banana. I topped it with soya milk which the chocolate cake turned into a oh-so-gorgeous chocolate flavoured indulgence that I couldn’t help but smile all the way through while I was eating.

Listen up everyone, here is the recipe:

1 cup ground oats
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup ground sesame seeds
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/3 cup agave nectar
2-3 tbsp maca powder
2-3 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
Dash of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Mix it all together (it really doesn’t matter if you haven’t got some of the ingredients!) and either eat some straight away in crumbled form or squash it into a medium size container, depending on how thick you want the layer to be, and store it in the fridge.

Now, I also had recently purchased raw cacao paste, which I had seen as a listed ingredient on raw chocolate wrappers and was curious how I could incorporate it into my raw chocolate experiments. So while I was mixing together the cake, I simply put small pieces of the cacao paste (which was actually a big lump of rock hard cacao instead of the more liquid assumption of paste) into a cup and placed it into a container with hot water from the tap.

After a few minutes it began to melt and turned into the assumed paste. I was wondering if it was the byproduct of the cold pressed extraction of the cacao butter from the cacao powder and whether I could make raw chocolate out of it. So I also threw in a few tablespoons of raw coconut oil and agave nectar, added a little bit cinnamon, vanilla essence and the good old pinch of salt to enhance the flavour. Once it was all melted and tasted exquisitely beautiful, I poured it over the cake and put it into the fridge to settle.

It turns out that it doesn’t replace the cacao butter, which makes the raw chocolate firm to the bite. Raw cacao paste is essentially simply the original cacao bean turned into nibs (broken into pieces) and ground into a smooth paste. So far, my raw chocolate made with cacao butter and cacao powder usually hardens the minute it comes into contact with anything colder than the liquid chocolate. So the next time I use cacao paste to make ordinary raw chocolate, I may add some raw cacao butter as well.

And I just found this blog which beautifully explains my questions: http://bestsuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/cacao-powder-versus-cacao-paste

Now then, it is 10am now and compared to last week, where I only fell out of bed at this time, I have already created, consumed and blogged about my Raw Chocolate Breakfast Cake.

Love it 🙂
Anna

Fresh and Green

Why is it, I wonder, that good, wholesome and nutritious food is refered to as healthy? And why am I being put to stringent enquiries by colleagues every time I have my lunch? Is it really that much out of the ordinary?

Looking into my lunch box I see a mix of red and yellow pulses, red and green lettuce leaves, vibrant red peppers, green courgette, orange sweet potato and some white mozzarella pieces roughly torn scattered somewhere in between. On my tongue lingers the satisfying aftertaste of garlic, mustard, lemon and herbs which I had thrown together to create a dressing.

Well, yes, I sigh. I can understand why the “common people” see this as healthy. But to me it is simply just a quick and easy nutritious meal that will keep me going over the day by providing me with a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and not to forget the immune enhancing properties of garlic (really difficult to forget after consumption ;)).

I suppose what gets me most is the fact that food which is “normal and good” is said to be healthy, whereas any food should be normal and good in the first place. Where did the “bad food” come from? And why are people eating it if they quite obviously know and see the difference?

Ok, I am aware of the unfortunate rift between prices of raw vegetables and ready-made meals. My shopping bill literally doubled when I began to eat more consciously. Sadly you can get two ready-made meals for the price of a bag of peppers. How much can you do with a bag of peppers? It is obvious that a full meal looks much more appealing. Just that it isn’t really a full meal. It has been highly processed and overheated and contains artificial additives as well as salt and strangely enough even sugar and milk to enhance the flavour that has gone lost in the process.

Now, I raised the issue with milk and sugar in a previous post. Please feel free to read up on it. I feel strongly about it! In short: neither do us any favour. Sugar is highly addictive and has a negative impact on our health and in regards to milk: we don’t have the digestive enzyme to break milk down which leads to allergies and again, affects our health.

So maybe you can see why ready-made meals are not such a good idea. Usually, the more ingredients there are listed on the package, the less nutrients are in the package and the higher the likelihood that it will irritate our system somehow somewhere. The nice thing is that you probably won’t even know that you are affected. The symptoms are subtle and can be little irritants like a mildly blocked nose, tiredness, lack of concentration and the good old aches and pains.

All these can be released if we eat good, proper, wholesome food. It is good to have identified the difference between good and bad food, but merely pointing at nutritious food and saying: “Oh that is healthy” is like thinking: “I should really wash my feet, they stink!”, but not do it anyway. Start making small changes to your own food. Add a few leaves of rocket or spinach to a meal. It doesn’t only look much nicer, but also supplies our body with essential minerals and vitamins, as do any green vegetables. Of course, it is just as important to cook with all colours of the rainbow, but whatever colours you use, just don’t forget the green. A small salad as a starter gets all your digestive enzymes going and also makes you feel fuller quicker. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach has had enough?

Our early ancestors ate mainly green leaves, picking and eating as they went along. A bit like horses, I suppose. But it makes sense to me to eat as much greens as possible. And the offers are endless. I actually only just this very summer discovered my love for asparagus. Namely the green version. The white one I have been detesting ever since I was a child. I was really pleased that I got over my apathy and at least gave the green ones a chance. What a revelation! 🙂

To make a change, any change, in our life, we need to stick with a decision for at least 21 days in order to break existing habits. So, add as many coloured freshly prepared vegetables to your daily meals as you can. They don’t have to be raw, but the less they have been cooked, the more nutrients they retain.

Small changes, one step after another. Once your body has got the message of what you want it will adapt. Resist sugar cravings and try to substitute with natural, low GI, sweeteners. There are by far too many different approaches to food and diets out to even consider counting them. And everyone is different and has their very own likes and dislikes. In the end I say I will eat what my body wants because to me, a hunger, not a craving, indicates that this particular type of food contains some nutrients which my body is in need of. The reason why I say “hunger, not craving” is that our body gets used to certain food and will want more of it. Just like with excessive alcohol consumption, sugar will do the same. So if you crave sugar, have a date instead! The sweet taste and soft texture of medjool dates for example are my perfect sugar craving substitute. Try them with peanut butter. Seriously! 🙂

You have done the first step to identify healthy food, now get going and make it yourself! The simpler, the better.

Love
Anna

Chocolate and other Culprits

I love chocolate. Who doesn’t? But did you know that the kind of chocolate you find stacked on super market shelves has very little in common with actual, proper chocolate? Once you had the enlightening experience of tasting real raw chocolate you will understand. Raw chocolate doesn’t contain sugar nor milk and it has been lovingly mixed together with original untreated cacao and heated below 46 Celsius so that it still contains all the original goodness which is very heat sensitive and would otherwise be destroyed in the heating process.

For those of you who say: “I don’t like dark chocolate”, let me explain something to you:  Just a single drop of milk destroys most of the good chemicals contained in raw cacao. Cow’s milk was never intended for human consumption. It is fine for calves, but we only have a milk digesting enzyme until we are about two years of age and after that our body will have significant trouble coping with it. Nowadays cow’s milk is being “made fit for human consumption” by pasteurisation and thus heating it far beyond its heat labile point at which it begins to change its chemical configuration. This can and unfortunately nowadays is happening to any food which explains why there are so many people who are intolerant to milk and other products. Interestingly, the enzyme necessary for digestion of cow’s milk is only created in the fermentation process which is why people with an intolerance to milk might find that they are able to tolerate e.g. cheese and yoghurt. I have never really agreed with cow’s milk without actually realising and have now converted to soya or nut milk. Soya milk can be found pretty much in any supermarket, but make sure you choose unsweetened and sugar-free and as a general rule of thumb choose one that has as little ingredients as possible. The ingredients in the soya milk of my choice only contain soya beans, water and salt. Nut milks will be available in your local health food shop or online.

Now to those sugar addicts out there. I raise my hand voluntarily admitting:” Yes, I am a sugar addict.” The truth is, everyone is, but not everyone is aware of it. And to be fair, it is not easy to avoid it because nowadays it is added to pretty much anything to enhance flavour. It nearly borders on conspiracy which I am eager to make clear to everyone. Sugar as in the refined white stuff we commonly use in everyday life is a secret killer. No need to panic here, keep using it if you are happy with it. But understanding what affect it can have on us and how addictive it can be, or in fact is, I made the decision to remove it from my diet.  Trying to come off sugar can take time because your body will still crave for it for a long time after your last consumption. Picture yourself repeatedly going back to that chocolate box for yet another “fix”. You feel you need more in order to keep you alert and running, but this is a misconception. Yes, it will make you feel more energized, for about 30 minutes, after which your blood sugar comes crashing down again and you find yourself reaching for the next sugar fix. This is a tough lesson and after three years of repeatedly attempting to avoid it I only just start to settle on a diet without it. I firmly believe that most chronic conditions would be diminished or reduced if we simply remove cane sugar from our diet. And I mean any cane sugar, not just the refined version. Cane sugar alters our body chemicals. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t go without it for very long, once you realise how much better you feel without it you will try until your body doesn’t want it anymore. If you wish to avoid the damaging effects of sugar on your health, I strongly encourage you to take the first leap. The end result will be a much more alert, happy and active you. And believe me, your aches and pains will probably just disappear.

There are natural sugar replacements with a low GI value (Glycemic Index i.e. keeps your blood sugar levels stable). I personally use agave nectar or xylitol instead of sugar. Check your local health food shop or the internet. Agave nectar can now even be found in Tesco and dare I say at a much better price than health food shops. But please give your local health food shop a visit because the other good stuff they stock is well worth it and will most likely not be found in general super markets. The arising cost implication is a minor nuisance that I now easily dismiss in favour of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and the fact that I am indeed able to live my life and not be controlled by my dietary intake.

Most people don’t realise how milk, sugar and other food groups affect them or that they are in fact intolerant to any of them. An intolerance is difficult to spot. It isn’t always obvious because a reaction can be subtle and at times doesn’t show at all until the next day unlike an allergy which usually occurs straight after consumption and can be potentially life threatening. To give you an idea I will list some of my symptoms: feeling ill or sick and tired, aches and pains, blocked nose, headache, poor concentration, mood swings, viral infections, skin irritations, fluid retention in hands and feet and a swollen face upon waking in the morning plus not being able to wake up properly. After an acute intake of “ordinary” sweets and chocolates I even get a blurry vision at times. I did get checked for diabetes because some of my symptoms were quite similar but the test was negative.

It took me years to figure out that I didn’t agree with certain types of food and went to my GP at least once a year to have myself checked because I just didn’t feel well. But all standard tests were fine. And when I finally figured out that my reason for feeling unwell was indeed an intolerance to food I was told by my GP that they won’t test for food intolerances and that I ought to go privately. Others might have more luck with this but in the end I consulted a Kinesiologist (muscles reflex testing) who identified which food I was most sensitive to and confirmed mostly what I had already figured out myself simply by watching what I was eating and how I felt afterwards.

If you think you might have a food sensitivity keep a food log and record what you eat and how you feel and you might be able to come to an astonishing realisation. Try to avoid foods that give you problems and ensure you eat a balanced diet with as much raw or steamed vegetables as possible. Also try to avoid sugary drinks; they really don’t do you any favour. Water is the elixir of life 😉

Now back to the chocolate again. Raw chocolate contains no milk and no refined sugar. Just natural sweeteners and cacao. I have been experimenting with it for a couple of years now and have created the most delicious chocolate treats ever. And the best? I don’t feel ill after and I don’t end up craving in an unhealthy manner.

The naturally good properties and health benefits of raw chocolate: Most concentrated source of magnesium in nature. Magnesium supports the heart, increases brain power, relaxes muscles, increases flexibility, promotes healthy bowel movements, helps build strong bones, facilitates more than 300 different detoxification and elimination functions. Highest food source of chromium which assists in balancing blood sugar levels. Possibly best source of antioxidants containing 10,000mg/10%. Also contains vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, C and E and to a lesser extend fibre, iron, phosphorous and hundreds more. Theobromine, the sister molecule to caffeine but much milder, dilates blood vessels, acts as a cough remedy and has shown cariostatic effects. Phenylethylamine, the love or happy chemical, is naturally produced by our brain and other than that is only found in raw cacao and blue-green algae. Anandamide, the bliss chemical released in the brain when we feel really good. Tryptophan, necessary for the production of serotonin which can lower anxiety and stress. Most of these properties are very sensitive to heat and usually destroyed in the cooking process. (List of properties taken from Sweet Gratitude by Matthew Rogers and Tiziana Alipo Tamborra)

For those of you who had the opportunity to try some of my chocolate experiments will know where to get more. For those of you who haven’t yet, either come to one of my workshops where I will always have some on offer or contact me for more information or on how to make raw chocolate yourself.

Love
Anna