Where do I start? Raw cacao is nature’s super bean. Due to its’ extremely high ORAC score (a measure of antioxidant quantity), it is actually classed as a ‘super-antioxidant’ and therefore helps to prevent cellular damage, protect the heart, and naturally fight the aging process.
Cacao is also a great source of flavanoids, essential fatty acids and magnesium – all of which help with metabolism, premenstrual symptoms, heart function, blood pressure and lowering chronic disease risk.
Raw cacao contains naturally occurring theobromine, which acts as a mild, non-addictive stimulant that some believe can treat depression. Studies show that theobromine assists the brain to produce more anandamide, a “feel good” neurotransmitter.
A side note though, cacao is not the same as cocoa (which is highly processed and low in nutrition), and is always best in its raw form, without the added sugar that most commercial chocolates contain. Opt for 85% dark chocolate when you can, and try this Natural Hot Chocolate to assist with sugar cravings and to aid satiety after a meal.
Natural Hot “Chocolate”
- 1 teaspoon raw cacao
- 1 cup boiled water
- 100ml unsweetened nut milk
- 1 teaspoon rice malt syrup (optional)
Add cacao to a large mug, add boiled water and stir well.
Top with milk and for a little sweetness, rice malt syrup.
High in calcium, iron, vitamin C, manganese and phosphorus, chia seeds are truly one of nature’s superfoods. Their high omega 3 and natural fibre content also makes them fantastic for blood sugar control, which is the key to satiety, energy and weight management.
Chia seeds are also a complete protein, providing all of our essential amino acids. This is fantastic for everyone, but especially vegetarians and vegans, as the majority of complete proteins are animal sources. I love to add chia seeds to smoothies, “cereal” or granola.
Cinnamon is nature’s blood sugar regulator. Simply add ½-1 teaspoon to any meal or snack containing carbohydrates to moderate your blood sugar response. Cinnamon is also fantastic for digestion and due to its high catechin content, may help to relieve nausea. Some studies have shown cinnamon also assists the body to process food by breaking down fats during digestion.
Cinnamon has also been found to lower cholesterol, improve cognitive function and memory and act as a natural anti-inflammatory – perfect for exercise recovery, heart health and arthritic conditions.
Did you know cinnamon is also a natural food preservative as it inhibits bacterial growth and therefore, food spoilage? Cool, huh?
Coconut flour is not only gluten free, grain free and low carbohydrate, but also extremely nutritious. It consists of 14% coconut oil and 58% dietary fibre, and is therefore fantastic for blood sugar control, satiety and curbing cravings, all of which are essential for weight management and energy control. It is one of the biggest nutrition myths that wholegrains and cereals are required for fibre, when they are high in phytates which limit nutrient absorption and in some, create digestive stress.
Coconut flour is rich in protein and high in manganese, a vitamin that is essential for the thyroid gland, which is the regulator of our metabolism, growth and energy expenditure.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, and therefore highly heat stable and one of the best choices to cook with. More specifically, coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT). These are easily digested and readily absorbed by the liver and therefore a direct source of energy. This means fuel for our brain and muscles rather than fat storage. Studies have shown the consumption of coconut oil can assist in calorie burning, fat oxidation and reduced food intake, and as a result, weight loss. For more on this liquid gold, read this.
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. It is gluten free, grain free, high protein and packed full of nutrients including calcium, iron, zinc and B vitamins. It truly is a superfood and one of my favourite “good carbs”. Just a small handful post-training is perfect to accelerate recovery and enhance your subsequent performance.
Quinoa is delicious as a porridge or bircher muesli, or as a grain free substitute to rice. It’s also fantastic to bulk up salads, soups and casseroles.
Whilst it is grain free, some people experience digestive problems with quinoa. The seed coating contains saponins which can irritate the intestines, so quinoa must be soaked and washed under running water thoroughly before cooking. Just 10-15 minutes should do it.
To find out how I cook quinoa and a range of recipes to get you started, click here.
Rice malt syrup
Rice malt syrup is my favourite sugar free substitution. It is gluten free, refined sugar free and fructose free, so a perfect alternative to high fructose sweeteners. We now know that excess fructose is one of the leading contributors to obesity and other chronic inflammatory diseases, so please make sure you reduce your fructose intake (if you haven’t already).
What’s even better is that rice malt syrup is not too sweet, which will give your body a chance to re-set. Less sweetness helps to decrease sugar cravings and the constant reliance on sugar as an energy pick-up. I love to add just ¼ of a cup to make sugar free muffins. I buy mine from the health food aisle of Coles, but it’s also available from most health food stores. Why not swap sugar or honey for rice malt syrup in any recipe and see how it turns out?
Cacao, chia seeds, cinnamon, coconut flour, coconut oil, rice malt syrup and quinoa are just a few of my favourite things. What are yours?