Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chocolate is a Superfood! Top Tips for Choosing the Best

I. Love. Chocolate. I love chocolate! I always have, and I always will. I can easily pass by any dessert that does not include chocolate. That's one plus, I suppose, but put a box of Godiva's in front of me and I am all done. My weakness is indeed chocolate.

Or does it have to be a weakness? How can I use this to my benefit? There must be a way. I'm determined to find a way! One thing I have learned is there is good chocolate and there is bad chocolate. For example:

3 Muskateer Bar = BAD
Organic Dark Chocolate = GOOD  (cocoa content must be at least 70% to qualify)

My favorite dark chocolate bar

Chocolate itself comes from the cacao plant, and cacao is a SUPERFOOD. For real. In its most natural form cacao is a seed. All chocolate comes from a seed in the form of cocoa beans. Chocolate DOES NOT have sugar or dairy in it unless you ADD IT.  Therefore, chocolate in its raw form is healthy!  Yes - HEALTHY!!  It is all of the processing and addition of non-healthy ingredients that make it a junk food, not the raw source of the chocolate itself.

That means you want to look for chocolate that has been minimally processed and is at least 70% cocoa. The higher the cocoa content, the less sugar. For me I choose an 85% cocoa content for my nibbling and baking needs such as Green & Black's Organic. For smoothies and special dessert concoctions (like the vegan chocolate pudding featured at the end of this post), I choose chocolate in its healthiest and most natural form, cacao powder.

What is in Chocolate and What Gives it Superfood Status?

Here is a listing of just some of the benefits:

  • Magnesium – For heart, brain, muscle cramping, elimination, alkaline, bone strength
  • Iron - For blood
  • Chromium - For balancing blood sugar
  • Copper - For blood, immunity
  • Manganese - For blood
  • Vitamin C and Zinc - For immunity, liver, pancreas, skin
  • Phenylethlamine - For focus, alertness, appetite suppressant
  • Anandamide - For endorphin (same as what is released after exercising)
  • Tryptophan - For mood enhancement
  • Seratonin - A stress defense (feel good)
  • Fiber - For elimination
  • Methylxantines - For antibacterial, cardiovascular health

As mentioned, the best way to eat chocolate is in the raw, and there is a lot of delicious ways to use raw cacao. You can buy nibs, powder and cacao butter. One of the special qualities cacao has is its ability to hide the flavor of foods that don’t taste so great.  You can eat spirulina with cacao and never even taste it (bonus!).


I experiment with new real food desserts for me and my family often. Some are winners, some.....not so much. Here is one that should please your little chocolate aficionado. You don't have to announce that it is healthy, just simply swap out a non-healthy dessert for a healthy one and see what happens. Remember with kids you may have to do this THREE OR MORE TIMES before they will adjust to something new.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding (Vegan-Friendly)

Okay, I know how that sounds.  AVOCADO????  Really? In my Chocolate???!  YES.  Avocado is used as the base of the pudding and gives it its smooth consistency.. Avocado, in addition to cacao, is also considered a superfood! It contains:

  • 35% more potassium than a banana
  • More fiber than any other food so will get you feeling full quick
  • Oleic acid which improves the cardiovascular system
  • Folic acid to control homocysteine levels
  • Antioxidants
  • Lutein necessary to protect you from age-related eye degeneration
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

So this pudding is more than anyone could ask for. Superfood quality and so delicious even my six year old says, "yum, it tastes like chocolate frosting!".


- Flesh of one medium to large avocado
- 1/2 cup of raw 100% cacao powder (raw cacao powder, not to be confused with processed cocoa powder)  ***you can reduce this amount if you find it too chocolate-y for you. For me, no such thing.
- 1/4 cup of raw local honey (do not use processed honey or it compromises the quality of the pudding)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup almond milk

***all quantities can be adjusted to your taste preference

- Scoop the flesh of the avocado and place in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend until creamy and smooth. You may have to open the lid and push down the mixture a few times. Make sure all ingredients are completely combined. The mixture should look like the picture on the right when complete.

All ingredients pre-mixed
Processed and smooth

- Scoop the mixture into cups.  This should yield approximately 3 portions

- Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Overnight is best
- Garnish with fresh mint or fresh fruit


Be well,


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Monday, August 12, 2013

3 Reasons Why You Should Choose Free Range Eggs

Free Range Eggs from my 6 Chickens

I admit, I was against our family getting chickens last Spring.  My husband, however, had other plans and the chickens were coming, like it or not.  My reasons for not wanting chickens were superficial and unfounded such as they would smell, they would be too noisy, they are dirty, etc. None of which are true, by the way (thank goodness!).  However, there were two selling points that my husband was able to capitalize on with me:
  1. The eggs.
  2. They eat ticks (living in the woods, this is huge!)
Okay, so if I would have to do nothing but collect and eat the eggs, then I would agree to the chickens. Today, we are the proud owner of 6 gorgeous, fun, and entertaining chickens which our children find quite amusing and are now a fixture roaming free in our backyard.

Which Came First?
In our case it was the chickens as we bought them as already laying adults. Next year it may be the eggs as we are toying with the idea of getting chicks, but I'll defer to that next Spring. In the meantime, we don't have to worry about any of these eggs being fertilized so we can eat each one the chickens lay, and they lay A LOT. Each chicken averages 1 per day, so we get a half dozen eggs pretty much every day!

Free Range vs. Caged Eggs
So really, what is the big difference?  Nutritionally speaking, it is HUGE!

FEED: pastured free range chickens are allowed to roam freely and eat plants and insects. (one found my wild blueberry bush and went to town!). The nutrients from this type of diet are then transferred to the eggs. On the other hand, caged chickens are fed a processed diet full of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics and are kept in cramp, inhumane cages. Which egg would you rather eat?

YOLK: There is no comparing these yolks! The free range pastured eggs are the ones on the right and left, the caged egg is in the middle. Notice the deep yellow/orange color as compared to the washed-out yolk of the caged chicken egg. Also, the whites in the free range eggs are not runny and stand pretty much upright, whereas the caged egg ran throughout the pan. Free range eggs do NOT promote inflammation but DO nourish the body.

Free range eggs on right and left, caged egg in middle

Yum! Free range soft boiled egg

Nutrient Profile: This data is provided by As compared to caged eggs, the free range eggs had:
  • Twice as much omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Seven times more pro-vitamin A beta-carotene.
  • A quarter less saturated fat.
  • A third less cholesterol.
  • Up to 6 times more essential Vitamin D.
  • Significantly more B Vitamins.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin is abundant in free range eggs, very little in caged.

Not everyone is up to having chickens as it is work and a commitment, but you can eat free range eggs simply by purchasing some at your local farmer's market. Prior to us having chickens we bought them at someone's house in our town. More and more folks are opting to own chickens as featured in this month's edition of  The Andovers Magazine.

Chances are there is someone you know who has access to these delicious gems and are willing to share.

Have you ever tried a pastured, local, cage free egg? Do you notice any difference?

Be well,


Interested in learning more?  Please visit my website.

Monday, August 5, 2013

5 Delicious Water Infusions to Keep You Hydrated

There's nothing quite like the refreshing feel of water to nourish your body. Whether you are drinking it, swimming in it, or bathing in it, water does wonders for the soul.  I also find myself "prescribing" water a lot to my family for anything that ails them.  If someone has a stomachache, the answer is, "DRINK MORE WATER!". If someone has a headache, "HERE, HAVE A GLASS OF WATER!".  If someone is feeling stuffed from too much food, "WATER, STAT!".

Water, in my opinion, tastes great on its own, but when you are drinking water all the time, like anything else in life it can become boring.  Here are 5 great water infusions to mix up your glass and keep you singing water's praises for the rest of the summer.

#1  Cucumber Lemon Mint - One of my favorites, provides management of water weight, reduces bloating, and aids in digestion. Cucumber, rich in B vitamins, also helps you to feel full and acts as a natural diuretic. Fresh mint aids in digestion and calms the stomach.

#2  Fat Flush Water - Featured on The Biggest Loser by Kim Lyons. Similar to my cucumber lemon mint, it adds a different citrus flavor. Replace the lemon with grapefruit and tangerine slices. The longer it sits, the more infused it gets.

#3  Rosemary Raspberry - Rosemary has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and helps to increase concentration. Add with delicious raspberries for a medicinal, flavorful treat! We froze some whole raspberries directly into the ice cubes for a little added fun.

#4  Water with a Splash of Cran - Cranberry helps keeps the bladder and urinary tract healthy as it has a mild antibiotic effect.  Make sure you are either infusing your water with whole fresh cranberries or 100% cranberry juice. The label on your juice should read no other ingredient. I like this brand by R.W.Knudsen.

#5  Blueberry Orange - Ever had a slice of blueberry orange loaf for breakfast?  This is reminiscent of that without the calories!   See post on blueberries for nutritional information.

What are some of your favorite water infusions?  I'd love to hear!  Comment on this post to get the conversation started.

Be well,


Interested in learning more?  Please visit my website.