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Kid-Friendly Smoothie

Looking for a healthy drink that taste good AND something your kids will drink?

I made this the other day and it was all of those things!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Almond Milk
  • 2 frozen (organic) bananas
  • 1 Tablespoon Organic (Raw) Cacao Powder
  • Small handful of ice

Blend and enjoy!

Optional add-ins:

  • Blueberries or Raspberries
  • Chia Seeds

*You can use milk, and the bananas don’t have to be frozen, but that will help make it more shake-like consistency. Stay tuned for a future post on the different types of milks, as well as a homemade Almond Milk recipe.

Why are those ingredients healthy?

Almond Milk:

  • does not come from an animal
  • lactose free
  • low in calories
  • no cholesterol (saturated fat) and low in sodium
  • contains vitamins and nutrients, such as potassium, Vitamin E, Omega 3’s, calcium, vitamin D, Riboflavin (Vit B2) iron, magnesium, copper,
    selenium, zinc, antioxidants
  • does not need to be refrigerated

Bananas: Click this link to read this article about benefits of bananas

 

Cacao: try buying the raw, organic brands

Note, it is still chocolate, but IF and when you are craving chocolate, eating cacao in it’s rawest form offers benefits than the processed chocolate that is in most sweets.

  • Cacao is the unprocessed form of cocoa
  • contains antioxidants

Check out my previous post to see how to make your own Homemade Cacao Syrup

Chia Seeds:

  • Contains Omega 3’s, fiber, antioxidants, Calcium, phosphorous, magnesium
  • Can help you feel fuller
  • Can help manage your blood sugar
  • gluten-free

*See previous post for more info on chia

Sugar Explained, Part 2: What Are The Different Types Of Sugar? Name That Sugar.

A recap:

  • Sugar is considered a carbohydrate.
  • All sugars are broken down into a monosaccharide, then into glucose.

Thus, we can say: all carbohydrates are broken down to glucose.

Carbohydrates are the fuel for our bodies. Glucose is the type of sugar found in our blood.

A future post will further address how glucose is converted in the body, but for now let’s just discuss the types of sugars.

Most people don’t talk about sugar in terms of monosaccharides or disaccharides. Most commonly you will hear the terms: fructose, sucrose, and high fructose corn syrup.

What is the difference between sucrose and fructose?

What is sucrose?

Sucrose is commonly known as sugar. Sucrose is a type of sugar (two monosaccharides) that is made up of glucose (50%) and fructose (50%), with a weak bond that is easily digested.

What is fructose?

Fruit is comprised of naturally occurring fructose, hence the name.

Fructose is a monosaccharide that is found naturally in fruits, vegetables and honey.

So, what is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)? Let’s break the name down:

High Fructose: more fructose than glucose (ratio: 55-45, but unbound)

Corn: the sugar (fructose and glucose) is derived from corn

Syrup: well, that is the process of making it a liquid

Here’s the thing: as far as your body is concerned, all sugars are converted to glucose before your body absorbs it. Therefore, if you eat something made from sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, your body absorbs sugar as glucose.

Wait, so I am advocating or saying there are no differences between the two?

Nope. Not at all. Just pointing out a fact that often confuses people. For those people who blindly say- HFCS is bad or HFCS is good, I wonder if they really know why? I think the most logical question should be: good/ bad in relation to what?

My first thought is why does HFCS exist? Well, Since to the government subsidizes corn, it is actually cheaper to use HFCS than sucrose to make products. Of course! And some would argue that since HFCS breaks down to glucose anyway, what is the harm?

Well, what are the cons of HFCS?

  • HFCS contains more fructose than glucose? So what? Well. Fructose makes food taste sweeter. Therefore, people, especially children, get used to foods that are very sweet or sugary tasting and it dulls their appetite for foods that are more nutritious but don’t taste sweet.
  • Although fructose itself is not a synthetic form of sugar, HFCS is processed because it involves removing the sugar from the corn stalk and a chemical process to make HFCS takes place.
  • So, yes, the corn is from nature, but the process to make HFCS is not naturally occurring. Hence some argue that the biochemical structure is then different.
  • The ratio in HFCS is not always the same. Some products contain up to 90% fructose and 10% glucose (hello sweetness)
  • And more recently, the issue of Genetically Modified (GMO) Corn in the marketplace.
  • and if not organic product, the end product has been produced with synthetic pesticides and herbicides

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them” ~ Harry Truman.

As you can see, the corn and packaged food industries have a valid point: sugar is sugar (because your body breaks sugar down into simplest form) but as you can see, it isn’t as innocuous as that.

So, who do you believe? The corn industry? The FDA? Yourself?

And maybe you still don’t find HFCS that big of deal, because it has been deemed “safe” (by the corn industry). I am not here to judge anyone based on what they eat, but rather give you more information on a hot topic. The intention is to help others better understand the foods we put into our mouths.

For me, the premise of clean eating means:

  • Reducing foods that have (unnecessary and no nutritional value) additives
  • Limiting the amount of foods you eat with “added” sugar and fat
  • Eating things that have not been processed, or minimally processed

I am not going to forbid my kid chocolate or sweets, BUT, there are definitely versions and/or brands that have better INGREDIENTS than others.

Stay tuned for more on what kinds of sugar you can buy.

Sugar Explained. What Is Sugar? What Are The Different Types of Sugar?

Generally speaking, we all know what sugar is. BUT, perhaps the confusion comes with the misunderstanding about what the different TYPES of sugars are, and how they break down in your body. To further confuse the issue, are sugar substitutes and the different types that exist.

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate.

What is a carbohydrate?
Simply put, they provide your body with energy.

Carbohydrates are broken down into two groups:

1) Simple (sugar) and
2) Complex (starch/ fiber).
  • Complex carbs need to be broken down first, before they are absorbed.
Although simple carbs are easily absorbed, they don’t have as much nutrition as complex. Thus, to just say “good or bad carb” isn’t as black and white as some make it.
I remember learning about the following concept a few years ago and it is something I don’t think most know, but is definitely important!

Carbohydrates (and excess calories) that are not used as energy are

  • stored in the liver and muscles, as  glycogen (long chain of glucose)
  •  glycogen is stored as fatty acids and fat, energy and some convert into triglycerides. Triglycerides are known as one of the “bad” components of Cholesterol.
Ok, stay with me. You need carbs, but in excess, they can be harmful to your health.
Back to sugar.
Sugar is a carbohydrate. And can fall into the following categories:
  1. Monosaccharides: is a single sugar unit
  2. Disaccharides: two types of monosaccharides bonded together
  3. Polysaccharides: three or more monosaccharides bonded together
Visuals are often easier to understand, so I made this table to show you all the subsets of sugar.
Check it out and my next post will further delve more into the types of sugars how they are broken down.
Sugar Table
Links for further information:

Homemade Syrup Recipes: Cacao and Vanilla

Looking at the label of my Hershey’s syrup (I even had the Hershey’s Light Chocolate Syrup) I wasn’t thrilled with the ingredients.

So, I decided to make my own. This one is really easy to make and no artificial flavors or synthetic additives.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup:
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Organic Cacao Powder)
1 cup water
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, add sugar, cocoa, and salt. Whisk together gently. Add water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Cool.

*My changes were I used 1 cup of organic cane sugar instead of 1.5 cups.
Next time I make it I may even reduce the sugar more, to 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup of cacao powder.

Also note: organic cane sugar is still sugar and isn’t more “nutritious” but it is produced without synthetic pesticides and herbicides.

I actually plan to have a whole post on sugar, but for the sake of recipe, I will mention that sucanat is considered to be less processed than cane sugar and turbinado sugar, but remember they are all still sugar… I say if you are unsure which one to buy, aim for the rawest form and if not, pick organic sugar and it will still be healthier than store bought syrups.

And try to buy raw, organic cacao powder.

What is the difference between cacao and cocoa?
Cacao is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate.
Cacao is a bean that comes from the cacao tree. The beans are harvested, fermented and dried.

It is known as and becomes Cocoa once it has been processed:
cleaned, washed, and processed (typically involving high heat mixed with sugar and fat).
High heat reduces antioxidants levels, thus reducing it’s benefit.

Benefits of Cacao Powder?
Many site: improved mood, relief of PMS, antioxidant to fight free radicals.
I suppose I should just point out that eating chocolate in excess is not healthy and although there are benefits, probably shouldn’t bank on cacao for your source of vital nutrition. Plus, limiting the amount of added sugar is beneficial to your health. But, good to know that cacao, in it’s raw state can be healthy for you, versus cocoa, which is processed chocolate; which unfortunately, is how most eat their chocolate: altered state.
So, if and when you want a little flavor to your drinks, there are ways to do so without the extra additives and artificial flavors.

This is an example of how to begin to eat cleaner. You aren’t giving up chocolate or chocolate milk, in fact, you may find you like this one even better than your favorite store brand. I found it to be really tasty, and my son actually said he liked it better than the Hershey’s. It is also yummy with almond milk.

You could pour out the Hershey’s and thoroughly rinse the container clean and then pour your homemade goodness back in.

A few years back, I got a Latte Machine and started making my own at home. I bought the Vanilla syrup from Starbucks and made my own Vanilla Lattes. Well, I decided to actually look at the ingredients in their syrup… worse than the Hershey’s. Ok, no problem. I will just make my own. So, on days I want a little flavor to my lattes, I’ll add 1-2 pumps of this homemade syrup.

Homemade Vanilla Syrup:

3 ½ cups water
3 cups organic sugar
½ cup organic brown sugar
3 tablespoons organic vanilla extract

*I used 2.5 cups of organic cane sugar but if I ever made it again, would reduce the sugar to 2 cups.
Some recipes called for whole organic vanilla bean but I only had the organic vanilla extract on hand and it was fine.

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, gently stir together the water and sugars. Cook until mixture becomes thick and syrupy (approximately 10-15 minutes). Allow to cool and stir in vanilla extract. Fill jar with cooled mixture. Srew on lid and slide in pump dispenser. Serve with your favorite coffee drink!

Organic: Is It Worth It?

In the last post, we discussed the actual perimeters of the term organic.
So, what are the arguments against organic?

I think most would say:

  • Price. It costs too much and the difference is not worth the price.
  • Organic is not more nutritious
  • Organic farmers cannot provide enough for the masses


Well. Yes, it can be more expensive.


Again, let’s look at why the extra cost exist:
Farmers have to use “old-school” pest control (versus synthetic chemicals), crop rotations, higher animal welfare standards and restricted use of synthetic hormones, leading to lower yields, which all mean that organic food costs more to produce.

http://www.rsc.org/get-involved/hot-topics/organic-vs-non-organic/cost-of-organic-food.asp

Not to mention, the government subsides conventional farmers.
Organic farmers are not subsidized, plus they have to pay to get certified organic. Why aren’t more people outraged that it is cheaper to produce food that is processed and synthetic, over what is found in nature? In theory, shouldn’t processing something cost more than an apple off a tree?

There are various ways to avoid paying a premium for organic food.
Feel free to leave a comment about where you have scored some great organic prices.

I have found that Mariano’s has organic bananas for $0.59/ pound. That is less than most conventional bananas.

Stanley’s in Chicago has organic raw cheese for $3.98 for 8oz block. Dominicks sells non-organic 8oz block for $3.99

Check this out:


This was taken at the SAME store. Interestingly enough, they were in separate aisles. Do you wonder why, if the EXACT price, anyone would buy the conventional one?
Perhaps they didn’t even go down the organic aisle and presumed it would be more money?

So although I do agree (depending on the item) organic can be more expensive, it doesn’t ALWAYS mean more.


When someone says “the difference between organic and conventional are not worth the extra cost”, what do they mean by differences? Difference in appearance? Differences in taste? Difference in nutrient level?


Well. A recent study done by Standford reported that organic produce and meat were no more nutritious than conventional equivalents, which are less expensive to buy.
This made headlines and further perpetuates the belief that “organic is not worth the extra cost”.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/organic-food-vs-conventional-food/

Notice their conclusion was based on the fact that it was “not more nutritious”. What does that mean? So, an organic strawberry may not have more vitamin C than a conventional strawberry.

Ok… Isn’t that missing the point? The question that begs to be answered is– is getting extra nutrients out of a specific fruit the MAIN reason most buy organic? Is that truly the intended benefit of organic?

The study concluded that conventional produce DID have more pesticide residue on produce than organic, but followed that statement up with, the EPA has deemed the level of pesticides found “safe”.

A thought-provoking observation is, many times the people who are most vocal that organic is a scam, are often the ones who are against governmental controlled agencies, yet they are quick to defer to the FDA and EPA standards when it comes to pesticides.

It was also found that organic milk had higher levels of omega 3 and lower levels of omega 6 than non-organic milk. They attribute this to the fact that milk that is deemed organic, comes from a cow who is allowed to graze outside. If you recall from the previous post, data suggest many people get too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3…

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for heart health and too much omega-6 fatty acid is believed to be unhealthy. (Omega 3 in higher concentrations is also not good because it does have a blood thinning effect. Again ratio is most important, 1:1 to 5:1 is what is typically recommended.


Organic chicken and pork were less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Those who think organic is not worth it have told me that “some pesticide is fine” and that doesn’t make organic healthier.
Many organic supporters would argue that it has been proven that conventional produce has more pesticides and by ingesting LESS, that in effect makes it healthier. Perhaps the meaning of healthier in this instance isn’t meant to be taken as more “nutritious”, as the implied conclusion that less ingested, is healthier.


Lastly, I want to briefly touch on the argument that organic farmers cannot produce enough to feed the masses. It seems many confuse this issue. What point is being argued? That organic farms yields are less or that there are no benefits on health? Those two are separate issues. Can that point be rolled into- organic isn’t healthier?


In summary: Organic produce may not offer additional nutrients but was found to have less pesticide residue, higher healthy omega 3’s in organic milk and poultry was less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

So, after reading more than the headline report: is organic worth it to you?




Related links:












Organic: What Does That Even Mean?

Organic? What does that term even mean?
For some it evokes images of crops doused with chemicals, for others it is merely just a word for “more expensive”.

Not to put anyone on the spot, but if we polled even just our own Facebook friends, how many actually know what it means to be organic, certified organic and what makes it different from conventional?

I am somewhat guilty of this. I have been buying *organic milk for years now, as well as produce. But, until recently I never actually looked up the exact definition. My assumed belief was- I wasn’t sure if that meant pesticides were allowed or not, but I figured they were not as toxic as the conventional ones and hopefully less residue. I was kind of right…

(*I know, I know- cow’s milk- but that topic is for another post)

But, first. Let’s ask ourselves why we choose organic.
Based on my own experiences, my friends, and from the research I have done, it appears there are mainly a handful of reasons most people want “organic” foods.

  1. Some blindly say- it is healthier; some even claim it taste better
  2. Some say it is safer
  3. Some will tell you that organic means no pesticides.
  4. Others will say, for less pesticide residue on foods
  5. And two growing trends: a) because of the way animals are treated and handled and b) to save the environment

Ok.  A quick summary:
Organic farms:

  1. Cannot use chemical (synthetic) fertilizers AND to get the actual certification, they have to show no use for 3 years prior.
  2. Cannot use synthetic chemical pestisides; but are allowed to use natural pestisides, such as sulfur, nicotine and copper, which can also be found on the food
  3. Higher animal welfare- they reject the use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics and any other medication on the livestock. Animals are fed organic fed and allowed access to the outdoors.
  4. Also, crop rotation. If you plant the same crop, on the same field, year after year, it produces less yields and it depletes the soil of nutrients.
    Organic farming methods emphasize the use of renewable resources and conservation of soil and water. But this isn’t a new idea, in the United States or worldwide.
    It all starts with good soil. The right mix of soil leads to healthier crops and animals, reduces their susceptibility to disease, and increases the overall productivity of the farm. Common techniques used by organic farmers to manage soil quality — which involves not just the soil itself but also water, weeds, disease and pests — include the use of animal manure, compost, cover crops, green manures and crop rotation.

This is great overview of this topic: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/organic-farming.htm

I will have to get into what the arguments are for those who are AGAINST organic in my next post.
Until next time.

Here are a few additional links to some of the other articles I read:

  1. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/about/types.htm
  2. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&navID=NOPFAQsHowCertified&topNav=&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPFAQsHowCertified&description=FAQ:%20%20Becoming%20a%20Certified%20Operation&acct=nopgeninfo
  3. http://www.organicvalley.coop/why-organic/pesticides/