Good Nutrition Advice

For a healthy body and mind

Month: March 2013

Healthy Peanut Butter Cookies

PeanutButterCookiesI DO seem to be harping on about food rather a lot at the moment, but that’s because we really are coming up with some great healthy dishes and snacks. This morning’s little treat from my very own personal chef (yes, yes, I’m a lucky girl, I know) was Peanut Butter Cookies made with spelt flour. Now before you start screaming calories, sugar and fat I just want to point out that these little gems contain none of the above. Well, there is some fat of course, but it’s the healthy kind and I did lie a little about no calories, but we all need energy and these will definitely give you a nice little morning boost.

So, what’s so special about these? Well, although the humble peanut gets a lot of bad press for not quite living up to its nutritious distant cousin’s (almonds or walnuts) reputation, it still has a place in a healthy diet. Peanuts are technically a legume rather than a nut because they grow under the ground and not on trees. Studies have shown eating peanuts can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease without promoting weight gain. Researchers found regular peanut consumption lowers triglyceride levels, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, by as much as 24 percent, and study participants had no significant change in body weight.

As peanuts are high in fat they are often viewed as unhealthy, but as researchers point out, they contain healthy fats that can contribute to a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. Along with monounsaturated fatty acids, peanuts also contain magnesium, folate, vitamin E, copper, arginine and fibre, all of which have cardiovascular disease risk-reducing properties.

There are few pitfalls here though. Peanuts are often heavily sprayed with pesticides so buying organic really is better in this case. Some of the cheaper peanut butters can contain a carcinogenic mould called an aflatoxin. But if you stick to good quality, non-hydrogenated, organic brands you should be fine.

Spelt Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes around 24 cookies

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Handful of sesame and pumpkin seeds

Pre heat your oven to 350F. Mix one and half cups of spelt flour, the baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix peanut butter, tahini, maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mix and fold together until combined – try not to over-work the dough. If it is too loose, add some more flour. Place heaped tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets and press down on each one gently with the back of a fork or press into biscuit shapes using your fingers. Sprinkle with a few sunflower and pumpkin seeds. It’s a loose batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes, don’t over-bake or they will be dry. Let them cool for few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

Adapted from the Green Kitchen

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Blackberry and Blueberry Muffins

Muffins

AFTER our hugely successful Spelt and Muesli scones last week, we thought we’d try these Blackberry and Blueberry Muffins. They are flour-free, gluten-free and super healthy, but they also taste great. Made with almond flour, bananas and berries they really do pack a nutritional punch. Eating almonds in moderation promotes lower cholesterol levels, prevents heart disease and can help with weight loss.

Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, with 25g providing 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance. They also have good amounts of magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fibre and are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat. They contain more calcium than any other nut which makes them great for vegetarians who don’t eat dairy.

Almonds contain several phytochemicals including beta-sisterol stigmasterol and campesterol. Studies have shown these help maintain a healthy heart. A handful of almonds a day can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL, or ‘bad’ blood cholesterol by as much as ten percent. Their high monounsaturated fat content, a key fat found in many Mediterranean diets, also gives them much greater benefits than just helping to lower cholesterol.

Blackberry and Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 medium-sized muffins

  • 2oo g raw almonds
  • 100 g shredded coconut
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil or melted organic butter
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml plain yogurt
  • 10 fresh soft dates, pitted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 handful of berries

Preheat the oven to 400F / 200° C and line 12 muffin molds. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine flour. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the berries) and blend until well combined. Remove the knife-blades and add the berries, stir with a spoon to mix. Pour the batter into the muffin molds and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Vitamin D and the obesity epidemic

THIS week I am going to write about the importance of vitamin D. Yes, yes, again, I know! But this time because it affects obesity.  As you are probably aware, the Western world is seeing an increase in obesity of epidemic proportion.  In May 2011 David Cameron stated that obesity already costs the NHS a staggering £4 billion a year, a figure expected to rise to £6.3 billion by 2015. However, within four years, that figure is expected to rise to £6.3 billion.

These figures include the cost of treating the spiralling number of people with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, many cancers and osteoarthritis.  The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is around 20–80 times more likely for people who are obese compared with lean people. Coronary heart disease (which itself is slightly more common among obese people) is two to three times more common among diabetic men and five times more common among diabetic women.

Could vitamin D deficiency cause obesity?

Let’s take a look at what researchers have found about the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and obesity.  A study published in the Journal Medical Hypotheses, entitled ‘Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity’ suggests that when the body perceives a drop in vitamin D levels, it assumes that the sun (our main source of vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin) has gone in and winter has arrived.  To prepare the body for the scarcities of this season, it adopts a winter metabolism by storing fat and therefore increasing body size. Other physiological changes could include an increase in blood pressure and insulin resistance – both perfectly normal bodily responses to ensure protection against cold and lack, but deadly in a time of warmth and plenty.  Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes and a study from Drexel University found that there is an increased risk of diabetes for the vitamin D deficient obese.

Now, clearly not everyone suffers from this kind of ‘winter response’ but if you think you do, I would really recommend that you have your vitamin D levels tested.  This is a simple blood test that your doctor can do for you.

Don’t stop for a cappuccino

Don’t stop for a cappuccino just because you went to the gym.  People tend to overestimate the amount of calories they burn during physical activity and underestimate the calories in most foods!  It can take 45 minutes to burn off a cappuccino and will undo all the good you did in the gym!

Sources: 

Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity. Medical Hypotheses [2009, 72(3):314-321]

Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Modelling Future Trends in Obesity & Their Impact on Health. www.bis.gov.uk/assets/foresight/docs/obesity/14.pdf

Drexel University. Increased Risk For Diabetes When Obesity And Low Vitamin D Are Present. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 19 Jul. 2012. Web.

Blueberry and Banana Pancakes

Blueberry PancakesWE’RE experimenting with healthy breakfasts this week and thought we’d try these gluten and flour-free ‘pancakes’. Actually, they’re more like fruit fritters, but we like them and think they taste great with a small dollop of natural yogurt.

Blueberries are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help fight free radicals and prevent disease. Often classed as a superfood these small berries contain good levels of vitamin C, iron and potassium, silicon, pectin and beta-carotene.

Fighting Free Radicals

According to the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Boston’s Tufts University, blueberries are the top fruit for fighting free radicals. The research centre devised the system for measuring the antioxidant capability of foods. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC system, measures the ability of fruit and vegetables to neutralise free radicals.

Scientists suggest we eat at least 5,000 ORAC units a day for maximum antioxidant benefit. Just 50g of blueberries provide double this amount. In other anti-aging studies at Tufts, rats fed with extracts of blueberries displayed none of the normal signs of aging. The lab rats not fed blueberries suffered loss of concentration, balance and coordination.

So, get your day off to a healthy start with:

Blueberry and Banana Pancakes

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 6 organic eggs
  • 1 cup / 100 g shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup / 70 g fresh blueberries or thawed frozen ones
  • A handful of chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Coconut oil, for frying
  • A small knob of butter

To make the batter, peel the bananas and mash with a fork. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and mix together with the mashed banana. Add the shredded coconut, blueberries, cinnamon and stir to combine.

To fry the pancakes, heat the coconut oil with a little butter in a frying pan on a medium heat. Spoon small portions of pancake batter into the pan at the time and fry on both sides. Serve with shredded coconut and blueberries, or other berry of your choice, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

For more fabulous gluten-recipes why not take the 21-Day Gluten-Free Day Challenge…?

Recipe Serves 4
(Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)

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