Maca is a root vegetable which is usually bought in the form of a powder. It tastes malty, a bit like horlics and butterscotch, so works great in sweet puddings and cakes. As it is a powder, I like to substitute some flour for maca in baked recipes, as well as keeping raw in brownies, smoothies and chocolates. I also love adding it to my porridge for a balancing start to the day.
Macas properties are sweet, warming, energising and balancing. It has been used to help balance womens hormones, especially to help women during PMT and the menopause. It is also a great one for stamina, and athletes have been known to eat maca to help sustain their energy. 'in day to day life, putting a teaspoon of maca powder into your food will help you have more energy and feel more grounded.
Maca is a great source of the B vitamins, as well as protein (11%), 31 minerals including zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron. It also contains essential fatty acids. Apart from tasting amazing, maca has a great range of nutritional qualities, though most of all, it is a medicinal food used to help hormone problems experienced in women such as irregular or heavy periods, PMS, PCOS and to ease the menopause. On top of all this, it is known to be an aphrodisiac, actually boosting fertility in both men and women. In a study done in 2000, rats fed maca increased their fertility rate by 400%! So if you are looking to conceive, then you might want to start adding some maca into your diet to get those hormones happy and horny!
Buckwheat is not related to wheat in any way, and is not even a grain. It is a fruit-seed from a plant related to rhubarb, and is free from gluten and high in protein. It is often eaten like a grain in cooked dishes, though it is very easy to sprout and eat raw. My favourite way to eat buckwheat is to soak and sprout the seeds for a day, then dehydrate them to make crunchy buckwheaties. Great for snacking, breakfast cereals and adding to cakes and biscuits, or my go-go balls or chocolates.
Buckwheat has more protein than rice, wheat, millet or corn and is high in the essential amino acids lysine and arginine, in which major cereal crops are deficient. Its unique amino acid profile gives buckwheat the power to boost the protein value of beans and cereal grains eaten the same day. Buckwheat also contains almost 86 milligrams of magnesium in a one-cup serving. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, improves blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure.
Buckwheat is one of the staple ingredients in my diet, and is versatile in breakfasts, lunch dishes and main meals. It is one of the easiest ''grains'' to eat raw, as it only needs soaking for a minimum of 4 hours before it can be blended and eaten in porridges or used in sweet snacks, and makes a great substitute for cooked grains in salads like tabbouleh to provide a nutty, nutritious base. Look for the hulled, unroasted variety.
Sprouting buckwheat groatsBee Pollen
A slightly mis-leading name, bee pollen is not a product of the hive but rather pollen from flowers which is gathered by bees and taken back to the hive to turn into honey. Bee pollen is harvested by the bee keeper once bees have enough stores for themselves and dried as fresh bee pollen very perishable.
I like to use bee pollen regularly as it is one of natures 'complete' foods, containing over 5000 enzymes with 15% natural lecithin. It is high in Folate, which is especially important during pre-conception and pregnancy. I like to add it to my breakfast porridge, smoothies or in my omega-mumma chia bowl!
So being a complete food, bee pollen is natures multi-vitamin, containing every amino acid essential for health, as well as high levels of most vitamins and minerals, especially B vits. It is naturally alkaline meaning it is very balancing and cleansing to the body. It is often used by athletes as it increases stamina and energy, pregnant women and people needing a nutritional boost. Taking bee pollen regularly will ensure that you have heaps of energy to get you through the busy day, just like the bees!
One thing to remember when consuming bee pollen, is that it takes the female bee one month of working 8 hours a day to gather just 1 tsp of bee pollen! That's alot of hard work from our bee friends, so use bee pollen sparingly and with big respect! Try to find locally sourced pollen if possible, as this will ensure that you are taking in pollen from plants local to your area and supports local bee keepers.
I use almonds more than any other nut. Mostly because I enjoy drinking almond milk so much, and turn the dried pulp from making the milk into fine almond flour for my baking. I like snacking on them and adding them to trail mixes and breakfast cereals, and using them ground to add richness to cakes and sweet treats. Happily, almonds also happen to be highly nutritious and are an alkelising food, whereas most other nuts are acid forming. Alkaline foods help us to maintain a healthy pH balance in our bodies and ward off disease. Almonds are also high in vitamin E and calcium, so drinking almond milk is a great substitute for dairy. They also contain plenty of magnesium and folic acid. You can read more about making almond milk and flour here.
Cacao is the pure, un-roasted bean of the cacao tree, and what all raw chocolate is made from. I use it for all of my chocolate desserts and chocolate making. You can find raw cacao in most health food shops now. The cocoa powder that you see in the suoermarkets is roasted and will not contain the health benefits of it in its raw state. Raw chocolate is one of the highest anti-oxident foods of all foods, much higher than blueberries, green tean and red wine! Cacao is made up of fats, carbs, protein and fibre. It is high in the minerals iron, calcium and magnesium, and the vitimins B, C and E. It contains hundreds of other naturally occurring chemicals including those which help make us feel ‘happy’ and ‘in love’.
Cacao is high in Magnesium which helps us build strong bones and is also a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness. Its high in sulphur too, which builds strong nails and hair.Cacao also contains the chemicals phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that we create naturally when we're excited. It also plays a role in feeling focused and alert because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when we are excited or fall in love!
Another 'bliss' chemical found in chocolate is the lipid anandamide. It's there in our brain when we feel great. Anandamide is also called "chocolate amphetamine" as it causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, leading to feelings of excitement and alertness.
Anandamide works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it is not addictive like caffeine or illegal with undesirable side-effects like amphetamines. Anandamide is quite unique in its resemblance to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a chemical found in marijuana.
The good news is that even though the anandamide in chocolate helps to create feelings of elation, the effect is not the same as the THC in marijuana. It would take approximately twenty five pounds of chocolate to achieve a 'high' similar to marijuana, which is not nearly achievable even by the biggest chocolate eaters!Caffeine and Cacao:
There is some confusion as to whether cacao actually contains caffeine or not, and an argument which still remains unsolved. It does, for certain have a stimulating effect on most people, though this is most likely to come from the chemical Theobromine. This is a bitter alkaloid which has a similar effect to Caffeine but is not quite the same. In general it produces less intense and more beneficial effects...but it can still keep you up! Theobromine is much gentler on the central nervous system and adrenal systems than caffeine but is more stimulating to the heart. As a myocardial stimulator and vasodilator it increases heart rate while dilating blood vessels, generally creating a reduction in blood pressure. For these reasons theobromine is used to treat cardiac failure and angina. My advise is to keep your chocolate consumption to a minimum in the later hours of the day. Most people find it does have a stimulating effect to some degree (some much more than others) and its best used at times when you need that energy the most! Night time raw chocolate eating can defiantly lead to sleepless nights!
Check out my raw cacao recipes.. Go-go balls, Live-by-chocolates and choca-mocha shake!
I don’t think that a day goes by without me using dates in some form in my food. Whether they be fresh, dried, soaked or the sweet nectar they excrete when soaked, they are one of my top whole foods which I use to sweeten my deserts, drinks and sweet breakfasts. I like the fact that they are a whole food that are naturally super sweet, rather than a concentrated form of sugar such as fruit syrups, agave or even honey which contain no fibre to slow down the release of sugar into the body. Not only are dates sweet and can substitute other sugars in recipes, they also contain good amounts of iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as being high in fibre and carbohydrates, compared to honey or agave which contain no fibre and minimal vitimins or minerals. Honey has its own special properties like being anti bacterial and fungal and full of enzymes when raw, so I choose both dates and honey for different reasons when choosing a sweetener for my recipe.
You will find soaked dates in most of my raw dessert recipes, so I tend to keep a jar of them soaked in the fridge so they are always at hand. Once soaked, they keep in the fridge for about 5 days. The longer you leave them soaking, the stronger the soak water becomes, which I use as a liquid to make my morning porridge, in smoothies and thickshakes or sweet nut creams. Don’t throw this precious nectar away! It will be full of the nutritious benefits of the dates and can be used as a sweetener on its own. The perfect bi-product from softening your rich and gooey dates!
Always choose organic dates if possible, as conventional dried dates will have been treated with a sulphuric dust, and the organic ones taste so much nicer. Medjool dates are fine to use too if you can afford them and have the time to de-stone them your self! Otherwise, I would go for organic pitted dates which taste great and save your time and money on other yummy ingredients.
Soaked dates and date soak water
Equipment: Large jar or container
2 cups dried dates
1 cup water
Put the dates into jar or container and pour over the water. If you are in need of using your soaked dates quickly, you can use warm water, otherwise, use cold and leave for 6 hours or overnight.
When ready to use your dates, squeeze out any excess water before using in raw desert recipes, or strain off the brown liquid to use as a liquid sweetener. Always store in the fridge until ready to use.
Turmeric is used in Indian cuisine as a staple spice. It is only recently that I have discovered the amazing powers that turmeric has as a medicinal food. Not only is it incredibly healing, it is also invaluable as a food colorant too! The deep yellow colour comes from the compound curcumin. Curcumin is an antioxident which protects the body against free radicals and pollutants of everyday life and inner stresses. It has been shown that consuming turmeric has many health benefits and has been used as a treatment of cancer, arthritis and Alzheimers. Turmerics healing properties come from its purpose of strengthening the immune system helping maintain a healthy digestive system, supporting the joints and bones and maintaining healthy blood and liver functions. It is widely known that regular consumption of turmeric gives one a healthy glow to the skin and helps with skin disorders such as acne. It has been shown that turmeric reduces many kinds of cancer cells.
One of my favourite ways to enjoy the benefits of turmeric at its best is by drinking fresh turmeric tea. It's a great morning drink and will make any dull morning feel bright and sunny! Check out the drink here, or try adding a pinch of powdered turmeric to salad dressings, nut-cheeses or smoothies for a colouful boost!
Chia seeds are the ancient food of the Aztecs, where they mean ‘strength’. They were taken on long treks to sustain energy and hydration, as they hold 9 times their volume in water. They were known as ‘running fuel’, and are a valuable food for people wanting sustained energy and hydration. Holding so much water around themselves, they help you feel fuller for longer, which is great when you are on a detox. They also contain lots of fibre, and the ‘gel’ that they form cleanses and soothes the digestive tract, helping elimination. They bulk up smoothies and desserts, making you feel satisfied for hours.
Chia seeds are high in Omega 3’s (like flax seeds), important for heart and cholesterol health. These fatty acids and oils are useful for absorbing fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Chia seeds are also helpful in absorbing calcium, which is important for vegetarians and vegans. They help stabalise blood sugar and energy levels with their unique combination of soluble and insoluble fibres, slowing down the conversion of starches into sugars. Less afternoon energy crashes!
Chia is a complete source of protein, vitamins and minerals which provide sustained energy and contain twice the amount of protein of any other seed or grain, which is why I love them so much!They're also loaded with magnesium, boron, calcium, antioxidants and essential fatty acids which are important to help protect us from ill-health.
Another great thing about chia seeds, is that they have virtually no taste at all, meaning they will take on the flavour of anything you choose to put with them. My favourite way of enjoying chia seeds is to turn them into a pudding, a bit like a healthy tapioca! Soaking them in a creamy nut milk, adding what ever flavours and other super foods and sweeteners you like to them and leaving to soak for 20 minutes is all it takes to turn these tiny seeds into a filling, sweet and creamy pudding which is perfect for eating as a dessert whilst on a detox, or as a filling breakfast. The variations are limitless; try using different nut milks, or fruit juice to soak them, other dried fruits or cacao powder for a chocolatey pudding. My recipe that I enjoyed during my pregnancy is a prefect snack for anyone, see it here
Tiny chia seeds will hold up to 9 times their weight in water!!