Cypress Mountain & Nice Cream 

A few photos and quotes from last week’s hike on Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver:

Birds are not meant to be caged. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. – Stephen King

In quietness are all things answered. – A Course in Miracles

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive. – Gilda Radner

Spending time in the forest has always been my yin to the yang of the corporate world. Nothing for me is more soothing and rejuvenating than spending an afternoon surrounded by sweet scented, mossy green trees.

And after working up an appetite on a hike I like to head home to whip up a tasty, sugar-free treat. This recipe is a post hike favourite. It’s vegan, naturally sweetened and uber-healthy with nut butter, dairy free milk and lots of anti-oxidant fruit.

Peanut Butter Banana Nice Cream

  • 5 bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
  • 3 T. peanut butter (or almond butter if you prefer)

Blend together and store in freezer until frozen. Top with your favourite fruit. This one has banana, mango, strawberries and unsweetened coconut. The recipe tastes a lot like ice cream but is so very good for you.

Hope you enjoy it.

Advertisements

Sugar and your brain

I’ve been sugar-free for a few days and already I’m starting to feel, well, sharper. My memory seems better and my afternoon brain fog is gone. Is this because of my no-sugar eating plan I wondered? So, I googled sugar and brain health and this is what I found.

Not only is sugar bad for your weight, skin and heart, but also your brain.

And here’s what will happen to your brain when you give up sugar:

You may experience cravings – Possibly intense cravings.

I’m writing this blog post on day 3 of my no-sugar lifestyle and, although I slept like a little log last night (a sugar-free bonus) my head is pounding today. And I never, ever get headaches..well, unless I’m hungover and I’m certainly not hungover today. Nope, I suspect this is good old sugar withdrawal. Since sugar helps release the feel-good chemical serotonin in your brain, giving sugar up temporarily depletes your levels of the happy chemical until your body adjusts and manufactures more on its own.

I know this headache and slightly off feeling will only last a few days so I’m staying strong, but on my way home tonight I had a fantasy about opening a bottle of maple syrup and drinking it straight from the bottle (I’ve actually done this before. More than once). So, yes, you may experience intense sugar cravings for a few days.

Your memory and learning skills will improve.

A 2012 UCLA study on rats found that a diet high in sugar impairs learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain by stopping communication between brain cells. I personally don’t feel extraordinarily smarter these past three days but I totally believe that sugar does negatively affect the brain, especially in people who are sensitive to it, so I’ll keep you posted!

 

Your depression and anxiety will lessen.

If you’ve ever had a sugar binge, followed by a sugar crash, you know up close and personal the feelings of crankiness, mood swings, tiredness and brain fog. This has happened to me on more afternoons than I care to count. And it all happens because eating a piece of chocolate cake or drinking a soda causes blood sugar levels to spike and then crash. This is exactly how sugary food messes with the neurotransmitters that keep our moods calm and stable. I’m definitely looking forward to less afternoons of feeling like I’ve hit a wall, very hard.

 

You can worry less about age-related cognitive decline and/or dementia.

There is a body of research showing that a sugar-filled diet increases the risk of cognitive decline as we age as well as developing Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t know about you but Alzheimer’s is one disease that I have watched older relatives suffer from and that I will do anything to avoid getting. If giving up sugar is insurance against future dementia, I’ll buy that insurance, thank you very much. Find out more about the research here.

So, to summarize, these are a few of the sneaky ways that sugar can affect your health, happiness and your entire life. It is now thought to affect our brains in a similar way as cocaine and other opiates.

And even though I’m typing away through an annoying headache and occasionally day dreaming about chugging maple syrup straight out of the bottle, I’m also so excited to see how I’ll be feeling in a few weeks.

Until next time.

Sugar free is the way to be

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in a raw food eatery in Calgary with my ex-boyfriend, his daughter and his son-in-law, celebrating father’s day. Don’t ask how this happened. It’s a long story.

The cool thing about this luncheon, though, was that the daughter and son-in-law had been sugar-free for a few months and they were singing the praises of this lifestyle like the truly converted.

They had more energy and more even energy throughout the day, balanced moods, their skin looked better and had both, effortlessly, lost weight, they said. And their eyes lit up when they talked about their new eating plan and how much it had improved their lives.

As they talked, I remembered feeling that way too when I gave up sugar. The only thing is that it’s hard and, invariably, I slink down the slippery slope that leads to sugar mountain.

But, what the heck, I’m feeling ready to take on the sugar demon one more time.

I’ll chronicle my experience (and recipes) here and start the journey with one of my sugar-free life savers. This pudding is rich, creamy and bursting with a deep, dark chocolate flavour. Here it is:

The Chocolate Avocado Raspberry Pudding

  • four bananas
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • splash unsweetened coconut or almond milk
  • 2 T raw cacao

Blend, garnish with fresh raspberries & unsweetened coconut and serve.

Farm Fresh Greens

One of the basic philosophies of the raw food movement is that since humans evolved from primates, our most natural and health giving diet consists mainly of fruit. I love that philosophy…in theory.

Fruit is sweet and luscious and so delicious that I wholeheartedly embraced this way of eating  for the past few months. I embraced it until I noticed that I began severely lacking in energy and I kept getting sick (three times this winter compared to my usual one), and my skin wasn’t looking better, as all the raw food lessons, books and articles said it would. In fact it was looking a little worse. And I was craving protein. Even as I was studying my “Peak Performance” lesson which stated that protein was over-rated, I was severely craving protein. Something had to give. And so it did.

One day the image of a succulent, savoury piece of salmon wouldn’t leave my mind. No matter what I did or how I tried to lead my thoughts down another path, a path filled with raw carrots and bananas and mangoes, I couldn’t stop thinking about salmon. So, after much deliberation, I did what I had to do. I had to admit that the 80 -100% raw vegan life is not for me. Then I went out a bought the biggest wild salmon steak I could find. I jogged home with it, ripped my coat off, raced to the kitchen and covered my fish in lemon and capers and a thin layer of mayo. Then I proceeded to slow cook it at 180 degrees. The aroma was heavenly.

I really loved eating all of the recipes filled with sweet tropical fruit, honey and maple syrup but clearly I was consuming a bit more sugar, even if it was natural sugar, than my body could handle. So, as much as I like the ‘gorilla food’ theory there is also a theory that you should be eating food that is natural to your environment. So, if you’re living in the Yukon it would not be natural for you to be chowing down on kiwis and pineapple and if you’re living in Vancouver, eating wild salmon and greens and fruit that is indigenous to your environment would be the healthiest fare. Makes sense to me.

So, after a visit to the local farmer’s market, where I found the freshest greens and spouts I’ve tasted in a while, I have a farm fresh salad to share with you.  Enjoy.

Farm Fresh Greens

  • 1 cup fresh organic spinach or greens of your choice
  • 1 heirloom tomato
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 1/4 cup various sprouts
  • sprinkle of Manitoba Harvest hemp seeds
  • Dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mixed herbs and fresh apple (all ingredients to taste, blended together)

Nothing beats the taste of home.

Nice Cream

I’m loving the raw food recipes I’ve been sampling as I continue with my nutrition course.

You can’t be perfect though, and sometimes I just want to leave the uber-healthy green smoothies behind and indulge in a messy, gooey, rich and delicious dessert. But a dessert that won’t make me feel unhealthy and bloated and give me a sugar rush. Well, The raw food recipes I’ve been experimenting with have got that covered too.

Let me introduce you to Nice Cream.

Nice Cream

  • 3 frozen bananas cubed
  • Splash of maple syrup
  • One T coconut cream
  • Two T raw cacao for chocolate (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries etc. for other flavours)

Blend all ingredients together and indulge in this rich, delicious ice cream-like dessert that is actually good for you!

Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette

My MSG free journey is coming along pretty well. Of course there have been a few surprises along the way. One of the surprises was the realization of just how much MSG has infiltrated our lives by being in almost every prepared product on the shelves of the grocery store. This annoying little toxin is in so many every day items that you really have to re-think almost everything that goes into your mouth. An example is that I had to toss out my minty fresh, flavour enhanced toothpaste and am now brushing my teeth with a coconut oil/baking soda mixture. Oddly enough, I’m finding that I have fresher breath with this natural cleanser. I can’t wait until my next trip to the dentist for a cleaning to see what the verdict is on my new found oral hygiene. But I digress.

What I really want to talk about is salad dressing. Do you know that it’s pretty much impossible to buy a commercial salad dressing without a liberal dose of MSG added? I’ve looked and looked and haven’t been able to find one (If anyone out there knows of one please leave the brand name in the comments section below). So, I’ve been making my own dressing at home…much like I’ve been making my own everything on this journey. The TV show Little House on the Prairie that I used to watch as a teenager has been popping into my mind as I make all of my meals from scratch in my little galley kitchen. I used to love watching the show and all of the homesteading that was just part of life back then. Oops, digressing again.

tossed salad with raspberry vinaigretteSo salad dressing! I’ve concocted what I think is a winner.

Such a winner that as I eat my delicious, wholesome salad, I wonder why I ever bought that preservative filled, MSG laden store-bought dressing in the first place.

Here it is:

Raspberry Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Drizzle this over a salad of mixed greens, pecans, goat cheese and fresh raspberries for a big plate of yum!

MSG Free

I’ve been learning a lot about MSG lately and none of it is good. Did you know that MSG is an excito-toxin that does a bunch of terrible things to our bodies? First, it contributes to ADD, mood disorders and the “dumbing down” of our society by causing neurons in our brain to fire too quickly. It also exacerbates Alzheimer’s disease when eaten in excess (and, since it’s in everything, it’s very easy to unknowingly eat in excess). And, as an explanation of why North Americans are getting bigger and bigger as time goes on, it suppresses the mechanism in our brain that tells us when we’ve had enough food. Oh, and to top it all off, this cheap little flavour enhancer is addictive too. Clearly big food corporations aren’t interested in our health and well-being – only their profits – by adding MSG to literally every processed item in our food supply.

So, after reading all of this, I’ve decided to eliminate MSG from my diet and I’m discovering that it’s literally everywhere, hidden behind some very sneaky labeling in a lot of cases. It was even in my toothpaste, vitamins, vegan protein powder and “healthy” granola. Basically, if a food is processed and packaged, it’s got MSG in it. So I’ve realized that the only way to avoid this nasty little toxin is to make my own food for every meal.

I’ve been doing just that and it’s been a wonderful experience the past few days. Time consuming for sure, but the food I end up with is wholesome, yummy and, most importantly, real. It tastes like the food I ate as a child when we picked our own veggies out of the garden, added butter and salt and chowed down. No health-robbing chemicals needed.

I’m looking forward to sharing all of my healthiest and prettiest raw, MSG free recipes here as well as any changes I notice as I go along.

There’s nothing more important than nourishing our bodies with delicious, healthy food made with love. I’m excited to be on this journey and to share it with you.

Happy Valentines Day ❤