Raw Cacao Cookie Dough Smoothie!

Sometimes I like to have dessert for breakfast! I came up with the Cookie Dough Smoothie the morning after I made “PN Raw Chocolate Chip Cookies” (recipe coming soon!). I woke up wanting to have one of the cookies I made for breakfast. Although they taste good and have very clean ingredients, they don’t have enough protein to be considered a healthy breakfast. So, I decided to make the ingredients into a smoothie to satisfy my craving and give my body the protein it needed to start my day right.

This smoothie contains one of my favorite ingredients: raw cacao nibs (found in the health food section of most grocery stores). Cacao can be found in a powder or solid form, and is an amazing food for your body. Raw cacao is chocolate in its original, minimally processed state. If you’re used to sweetened chocolate, like most of us are, it will be a bitter at first, once you are accustomed to its unique flavor profile, just a small handful seems to do the trick in satisfying a chocolate craving. What’s in the raw cacao bean that we love so much?

 

raw cacaoScreen shot 2014-05-16 at 7.10.41 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The combination of important minerals such as Magnesium and Iron, fiber, healthy fat, and antioxidants have countless health benefits:

  • By providing minerals that most people are deficient in, raw cacao may help decrease sugar/carbohydrate cravings
  • Raw cacao promotes a healthy digestive system with all the fiber it adds to the diet
  • Contains “theombromine”, a protein that stimulates the central nervous system, which relaxes smooth muscles and gives the body a gentle boost of energy and feeling of “bliss” we often get from eating chocolate (without the added sugar and ingredients from processed chocolate!)
  • Improves overall mood and may help fight depression due to its ability increase the bioavailability of Serotonin to the brain

Have we convinced you to try out some Raw Cacao yet?! Check out the recipe below and let us know what you think!

Raw Cacao Cookie Dough Smoothie!
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 packet "stevia in the raw" or other natural sweetener (honey or maple syrup)
  • 2 TBLS (15 grams worth) unflavored whey protein (we use Standard Process)
  • 2 TBLS raw cacao nibs
  • 2 TSP vanilla extract
  • 2 TBLS coconut flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2-3 ice cubes (more if you like it icier)
  • ¼ cup water, or more to desired consistency
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until the smoothie has reached your desired consistency. Enjoy!
  2. Note: I usually add spinach and/or another leafy green to my smoothies. Since this is more of a "dessert" smoothies, I decided to leave it out. When I don't get greens in at breakfast, I make sure to be extra conscious of getting them in later in the day!
Notes
PN RX:
1 Protein, 1 Fat, ½ Carb

As always, stay well, eat well, and have a beautiful week!

Ana and Amanda :)

Practical Nutrition Attends Misfit Toys Throwdown

ananda PN

This past weekend PN attended the Misfit Toys Throwdown hosted by Yankee Crossfit and Crossfit Revelation in Enfield, CT. The throwdown was put together by these two gyms to collect toys for less fortunate children during the holidays. It is a great cause that raised a lot of money and was able to donate a lot of toys since there were 220 competitors and each of them brought a toy, along with a lot of spectators.

We set up an awesome booth with a lot of goodies for everyone. It was such a great day. We had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about their goals and how nutrition would help them get there. I actually competed in the competition with my partner, Laura, and ended up finishing in fourth place. Yay!

 laura amanda

Are you wondering what goodies we had at our booth???

Well, one of them was an herbal energy tonic! The tonic was made with Licorice and Cinnamon Quills. Why these two herbs? Licorice is great for your adrenal glands, which are the little glands that produce all of your stress hormones. It is also helps our bodies deal with environmental stressors and aids in lung function (helps us breathe better). It is a natural energy booster! We added in the Cinnamon Quills to improve flavor, but cinnamon is also beneficial for blood circulation, digestion, and blood sugar levels. The herbal energy shots were a real hit!

pn shots

We also had a raffle where we raffled off a free introductory consult and we gave away some PN recipes. One of the recipes was for a Homemade Sports Drink that we made and were giving to the athletes and anyone that wanted to try it.  It is a very simple recipe with 5 ingredients, one of which is just water. It replenishes important electrolytes like Sodium, Potassium  Phosphorus and Chloride without the added sugar, chemicals, artificial colors, and processing that “over the counter” sports drinks contain (we won’t mention names but the two most popular ones start with G and P!) Everyone really liked it and I definitely drank a lot while I was competing all day. It was the perfect beverage! Here is the recipe!

PN Homemade Sports Drink
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sports Drink
Ingredients
  • 1 Liter of Water
  • Juice of 2 Whole, Fresh Lemons
  • 3 TBLS. Pure Maple Syrup
  • ⅛ tsp. Sea Salt
  • Pinch of Baking Soda
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients until well combined. For add refreshment, add ice and mint leaves as desired!

Treating High Blood Pressure Naturally, Part 1

Salt-

High blood pressure, aka hypertension, is one of the most common chronic diseases plaguing us today. In fact, it’s the number one most frequent reason for a visit to the doctor’s office, and for good reason… hypertension is a major cause of stroke and heart disease, affecting approximately 1 billion individuals worldwide. According to projections, over 90% of adults in the United States will develop hypertension by age 65, but only 34% are able to return to a healthy blood pressure! That is a problem! 

 

The first thing most people do when diagnosed with high blood pressure is to start drug treatment. While this will lower your blood pressure into a healthy range, and that will make your doctor happy, this doesn’t get to the root of the problem… it just covers up the symptom. There’s a reason your body felt the need to increase your blood pressure, and it’s not because it wants to kill you; it’s because there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

There are two root causes of hypertension in most cases:

  1. Low potassium intake
  2. Weight gain

And that’s where we should target our treatment.  I will get into the details of these and provide practical tips over the next couple of weeks. But today, I’d like to focus on what does NOT cause high blood pressure… sodium. This topic needs special attention, due to the excessive media attention sodium gets.

 

Salt is required for life.

First, you need to know that salt is a nutrient. Salt contains sodium and chloride, both of which are important for our health. Sodium is important for normal cellular metabolism and for maintaining proper fluid volume. It also plays a role in the nervous system, allowing us to move or react to our environment, among other things. Chloride is needed for stomach acid production, a necessary component of digestion and an important defense against food-borne pathogens. Salt is a nutrient that our bodies need, despite the image it gets these days. 

Some of us are more sensitive to salt than others.

In reality, we all respond differently to reducing salt intake. Some experience an increase in blood pressure, others see a decrease, and still others see no change at all. Take this 1987 study, for example. Subjects had normal blood pressure to start, and their sodium intake was restricted to 1600 mg/day, a very low level. This graph shows that the change in blood pressure varied wildly depending on the person. Some people are “salt-sensitive”, while others are not. And it turns out, whether we get enough potassium has a big impact on our salt sensitivity. More on that next week.

salt

Reducing salt too much can be harmful.

There was an article in the New York Times about this recently, click here to read it for yourself. The truth is that restricting sodium to the level that the Dietary Guidelines recommend, 2300 mg per day, can be dangerous. According to a researcher quoted in the article, “As sodium levels plunge, triglyceride levels increase, insulin resistance increases, and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system increases. Each of these can increase the risk of heart disease.” In other words, following the guidelines for sodium can increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

For every study showing a benefit for reducing salt intake, there’s a contrasting study showing the opposite.

 

What does it all mean?

When we have this much conflicting information on salt, it means we’re missing something. I’ll break it down for you.

  1. Foods that are high in sodium tend to be junk foods that are also full of additives, artificial flavors and colors, sugar, and more. Think canned, boxed, and frozen foods. In fact, 80% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods… and there’s much more going on there than just sodium.
  2. People who eat a lot of processed food tend to eat too much food in general and are prone to weight gain (one of the main causes of high blood pressure).
  3. In addition to being full of sodium, junk foods are also very low in potassium (the other main cause of high blood pressure).

Hopefully that clears things up on sodium! 

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we’ll get into treating the first cause of high blood pressure: potassium!

Could a Hidden B12 Deficiency Be Aging You Prematurely?

Add Some Life to Your Years...Get Your B12!

Add Some Life to Your Years…Get Your B12!

Unless you’ve been a vegetarian, you probably haven’t thought much about vitamin B12; it’s one of the essential vitamins we can only get from animal foods. The rest of us tend not to worry about it. It’s present in just about every animal food out there, so as long as we’re eating animal foods, we’re getting some B12. The problem though, especially as we age, is that there we really need our bodies working right for that B12 to be absorbed correctly.  We need enough stomach acid, adequate pancreatic function, proper digestion and absorption in the small intestine… overall there’s a lot of room for error, especially in older adults.  Even if we’re eating enough B12, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re absorbing enough.

But there’s more… even if you test “normal” for vitamin B12 levels, you may still be deficient. Currently in the United States, a B12 level of less than 100 pg/ml will get you diagnosed with a deficiency, while a range of 200-900 pg/ml is considered normal. But research indicates that those with B12 levels between 200-350 pg/ml may still show deficiency symptoms.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the brain and nervous system. As such, you can probably imagine some of the symptoms of a deficiency: muscle weakness, cognitive problems, impaired memory, and depression. In the elderly, how do we know whether a decline in cognitive function is due to simple aging or due to a B12 deficiency? We don’t… especially if our deficiency level is set too low to spot the deficiency!

Interestingly, the Japanese have increased their cutoff for B12 deficiency to a blood level of 550 pg/ml, very much higher than our cutoff of 100 pg/ml. In Japan, anyone below that level receives treatment. Our Japanese buddies also have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia compared to us here in the States. I suspect the differences in B12 levels may have something to do with that!

My advice: If you’re concerned about staying sharp and active into old age or if you think you suffer from some of these symptoms, get your B12 levels checked and make sure they’re up at least over 500. If not, I would recommend adding more high-B12 foods to your diet, like fish, shellfish, liver, or red meat. Can’t stomach any more of those foods? No problem! Try a whole-foods-based supplement like Standard Process’s Trace Minerals w/ B12, which you can order from any of us here at Practical Nutrition.