Organic Bartlett pear tree on O’Dells Farm

Apple and Pear Picking in Julian

This past weekend we drove up to Julian, CA with some friends to go apple and pear picking.  We visited Raven Hill orchards, and O’Dell’s Organic Pear Farm.  A Certified Organic Pear Orchard, O’Dells has Red & Green Bartlett, Bosc and DeAnjou pears, and they also have organic goats milk feta cheese.

The Bartlett pears at O’Dells were ready for picking, so we filled up 2 bags (and ate a couple along the way too).  We found one that was the perfect ripeness that

was perched on a branch, so we snacked on it right from the tree (it’s organic, why not?).  It was so perfectly ripe that the juice dripped down on the ground as I was eating it!

Then we popped down to Raven Hill orchard, where I fell in love with their Empire apples, they were the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and had the perfect firmness. We filled 2 bags there with some golden delicious and plenty of those amazing Empire apples.

Each day we have been snacking on these wonderful apples, and waiting for our pears to ripen.  Then last night I decided that I was going to make some apple/pear butter.  As it was cooking, it filled the house with the smell of warm cinnamon.

This morning I toasted some Ezekiel organic sprouted whole grain bread, added a little organic butter,

Walking around Raven Hill orchard.

and then spread on the Apple Pear Butter. So okay, I really didn’t actually have apple pie for breakfast, but it sure tasted like it!!  In retrospect, I think I should have made a bigger batch, as I have a feeling that I am going to need to make some more very soon.  So keep that in mind when making this recipe, you might want to double it.  It makes a great hostess gift too!

It is very easy to make apple butter, give it a try.  Notice, there is no butter in apple butter, according to

Wikipedia,  “the term butter refers only to the thick, soft consistency, and apple butter’s use as a spread for breads.”

Apple Pear Butter:


*Some people might prefer it less or more sweet – taste and adjust to your preference.  You could also use a combination of natural sweetener and some stevia if you want a lower glycemic version.


  1. Wash, core, peel and cut your fruit into chunks.  I washed 3 large Bartlett pears, about 3 small golden delicious, and about 7 small Empire apples, I removed most of the peels, cored them, and cut them into chunks.
  2. Put them into a medium sized saucepan and cover with about 1 cup of water – just enough to cover most of the fruit (some fruit will probably be only partially covered, as it cooks down, it will soften and shrink, don’t add too much water or it will be runny).  Squeeze in lemon, sprinkle in cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg.  Add the spices to your taste – you can always add more later.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. The apples should be fork-tender, with most of the liquid gone.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, immersion blender, or put them into a food processor or your Baby Bullet.  I left a few chunks in mine, but if you prefer, you can make yours really smooth.
  4. Add in the sweetener, pinch of salt, and you can add more of spices if you like.  Bring back to a simmer and simmer until it is thickened and coats the back of the spoon, approx. 30 minutes.  Make sure to keep an eye on it and stir it occasionally, so it does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Put into an airtight container, and it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (but don’t count on it lasting that long)!
  6. Serve on toast or whatever you choose.

Here is another fun & easy apple recipe to try –

Apple Chips! 


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

  1. Put the agave nectar, lemon, and cinnamon in a small bowl, stir to combine.  Set aside.
  2. Wash and core the apples. Slice using a mandoline (if kids are involved, make sure they wear an oven mitt to protect their hands.)
  3. Place the apple slices on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to not overlap.
  4. Brush the apples with the agave and cinnamon.
  5. Put into 250 degree oven for about 1 hour.
  6. Take out, and serve!  If the apples are not crisp when they come out – they will likely crisp up as they cool.  If they do not, you can put them back in the oven for a little while.

As seen on Fox 5 San Diego.

Happy apple-picking and eating!!

Find a full listing of U Pick orchards up in Julian.  U Pick season is generally through the month of September, with some open in October.

A special thanks to Patrick Brady of Raven Hill Orchards for supplying the apples for the Fox 5 segment, and to Kathy S. for inviting us on this wonderful family excursion to Julian!!  Next year – we are bringing the Girl Scout troop!

Breakfast foods that boost focus, attention, mood, and provide lasting energy – to avoid the “Seven Dwarf Syndrome” at school.

Presence is more than just being there.” – Malcom S. Forbes

Just being seated at their desk is not enough, kids need to be ready to focus, pay attention, and really connect to the material.  Skip breakfast, or make poor choices, and kids might find themselves feeling like one of the Seven Little Dwarfs – Sleepy, Grumpy or Dopey.

According to an Australian study, people who follow a “Western”, or Standard American Diet (SAD) are more likely to have attention issues and receive an ADHD diagnosis.  The SAD is characterized as more sweets, processed, fried and refined foods – in general, more packaged and convenience foods. Although there really isn’t a “Seven Dwarf Syndrome,” Dr. William Sears coined the term NDD – Nutrition Deficit Disorder, and he says that some cases of ADD are really just NDD. Read: Is it ADD or NDD?: 12 Inattention Culprits.

The Power-up Breakfast:

The first meal of the day, breakfast literally means “breaking the fast.”  For kids to be able to stay on task and engaged, the morning meal should help them power-up and provide lasting energy.  The right choices will properly fuel our kids’ bodies, brains, and even their mood.  The wrong choices could put kids at a disadvantage to learn. Critical to provide a good foundation for learning and attention in school, the ideal power-up breakfast will be a good source of one or more of the following:

  1. Healthy Fats
  2. Protein
  3. Fiber/Whole Grains

1. Healthy fats

The brain composition is over 60% fat, so in order for the brain to develop and work well – diets must have sufficient amounts of healthy fats. Fatty acids are basically what the brain needs to think and feel.  The no and low-fat diet craze of recent years was literally starving our brains!  One of the most important fats for the brain is omega 3s – known as essential fatty acids. Essential means that our body can not manufacture them, so they must be consumed.  A 1996 Purdue University study  revealed that kids with learning and behavior problems had lower levels of the omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood.  A 2000 study showed that adding DHA fats to infant formula increased their intelligence.  Conversely, declines in DHA levels of the brain are associated with cognitive decline.  Consumption of fish (omega 3s) is also associated with lower levels of depression.  The US Military is spending over $1 Million to study the effects of fish oils on the prevention and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the lead doctor on the study refers to fish oil as “nutritional armor” for soldiers.

Omega 3s are found in:  fatty fish like salmon, some nuts and seeds (like flax and chia seeds), and fish oils.  Since most American kids don’t like fish for breakfast, taking a fish oil or another omega 3 supplement in the morning is an easy way to boost those omega 3s.  Kids definitely will run the other way if it smells or tastes fishy, so here are some delicious options, with no fishy taste or smell:

Fats also provide the body with an important source of energy after they are metabolized.  Other healthy fats are found in olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil.  Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides which are shown to be metabolized more quickly than other fats, so they can be more quickly converted to energy and will be less likely to be stored (as fat).

2. Protein

A good component of a solid power-up breakfast, protein gives kids lasting energy – key to help them stay energized and focused throughout the morning.

Eggs are one of the highest quality protein sources, providing about 6 grams of protein per large egg. Another important nutrient that can be obtained from eggs is choline, which supports memory and brain functioning. More than 90% of Americans were found to be deficient in choline according to a Iowa State University study.  Many people have been led to believe that egg yolks raise our cholesterol, and have been advised to limit egg consumption, or skip the yolks.  But researchers at Harvard School of Nutrition have found that the majority of the population, eggs do not raise blood cholesterol.  Egg yolks are a rich source of lecithin, needed for proper nerve functioning, and which play a role in memory and concentration.  Kansas State University discovered that the lecithin in eggs reduces the absorption of cholesterol.  So go ahead and eat the yolks, and please – do not be tricked into buying those boxed “eggs” to avoid the cholesterol!  Choosing organic eggs is worth the extra pennies, as they are naturally higher in omega 3 fatty acids.
Yogurt is produced by fermentation of dairy (or dairy alternatives). Not only is yogurt high in protein, it is one of the richest sources of calcium, and contains probiotics.  Probiotics promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which promotes good digestion and boosts immunity.  Gut disbiosys is an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines, and is a evolving theory for the etiology of Autism, ADHD, sensory processing and related disorders.  But watch out for the flavored varieties – they can have too much sugar and even artificial coloring.  Look for brands that have lower sugar content, and I always choose organic whenever possible.  You can buy plain yogurt, and sweeten it yourself with a little Natures Agave, Barleans Omega Swirl, or your own fruit.  Try these brands I like:

Nuts and Nut Butters – Spreading some nut butter on their toast will give kids some protein and healthy fats for longer lasting energy. Nuts and nut butters are great on apple slices, you can even add a spoonful to oatmeal.  Nuts are also a good source of healthy fats. But read the labels to make sure that there is no added sugar or trans fats.  If if you do choose peanut butter, look for the all-natural varieties with no added sugars or oils.  I prefer the nutrition of almond butter over peanut, but if you do choose peanut – look for a brand that is made from Valencia peanuts, they are less likely to contain aflatoxins, a carcinogen.  Read: Perplexed About Peanuts for more info.  This brand is a particularly good nut butter:

Smoothies are a great way to pack in protein, fiber, and omega 3s- I like to put frozen berries, banana, vanilla protein powder, a greens powder (such as Barleans Greens) and 2 Tablespoons of chia seed. I also like to add some So Delicious coconut keifer, or yogurt.  Add some Good Belly mango – it contains probiotics, and will add mango flavors and a little sweetness.  Smoothies are great because they are portable in case you are running late – just pour into a water bottle or glass – voila!  A power-up meal in a glass.

3. Whole Grains/Fiber

Many kids (and adults) just simply do not get enough fiber in their diets.  Fiber is important because it keeps our digestive system working well, and it also provides longer lasting energy – because unlike white flour, foods made with whole grains takes the body longer to use/digest.   Many kids miss school because of “tummy toubles” that could be solved by increasing the amount of natural fiber in their diets.  Good sources of fiber are whole grains, whole fruits, and vegetables.  A food is considered a good fiber source if it has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, excellent if it has over 5 grams.  Foods with fiber in them are considered complex carbohydrates – digesting complex carbs with fiber takes longer than digesting simple carbs (sugar and all processed “white” grains). High fiber foods stay in the system longer and and provide the body with more energy for longer periods.  When grains are processed, the fiber is removed along with most of the natural nutrients. Processed grains are simple carbs – and are quickly converted to sugar in the body.  Some good whole grain options:

Fruits – fruits are a delicious start to your morning, and a good source of nutritious fiber.  A bowl of berries with some yogurt, a half of a grapefruit, a fresh fruit smoothie – all will provide extra fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins to your kids’ morning.  Each meal of the day is an opportunity to eat some fruits and veggies – the new My Plate suggests we fill half our plate with plant-based foods!  What about fruit juice? Definitely avoid any juice that is not 100% juice, or has the artificial colors.  Drinking juice (even 100% juice) can do the same thing that sugar does – it causes our blood sugar to spike and then shortly after, it will fall.  So you are always better eating the whole fruit instead of drinking the juice.  The fruit contains fiber which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, gives us lasting energy, aids digestion, and fills up our tummies.  If you do choose juice, make sure it is real juice, serve a small glass, and pair it with some protein, fiber, and/or healthy fats to prevent the sugar spike and crash.

Vegetables – not one of the foods we typically think about for breakfast – veggies are a great addition to our morning routine.  Add in some spinach, tomatoes and peppers into your morning omelette.  I like this recipe for a kid-friendly veggie omelette. Roasted and pureed sweet potatoes are a wonderful addition to your pancake batter.  I like to sneak in some veggies into smoothies – carrots go great in a mango/peach smoothie, and add lots of extra color. Baby spinach is a wonderful addition to smoothies too.  I like to use Greens Powders in my morning smoothies too.  Try Barleans Greens, they come in a variety of flavors, or just plain.

Just Don’t Skip It!

If your child frequently is running late for school and skips breakfast, having some healthy on-the-go options on hand is a good plan.  When I make smoothies, I like to pour any extra into popsicle molds – they make a great after school snack, and also a quick on-the-go breakfast.  Cereal or granola bars can also be a good option – but watch out!  Many bars are full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, low in fiber, and even have artificial coloring!  Here are some better choices:

Top 3 Breakfast Ingredients to Avoid for Focus:

1. Sugar. We all know that eating sugar is not nutritious.  But besides being empty calories – a sugary breakfast is a disastrous way to send a kid off to school.  Sugary foods give us an initial burst of energy; but then shortly after it is followed by a ‘crash,” something I call “The Sugar Rollercoaster.” When we crash, our blood sugar drops, and we can lose focus, energy; some individuals who are hypoglycemic or pre-diabetic can even become shaky, sleepy, and lethargic – not the ideal state for our kids to learn.

If you do choose a food with some sweetness, try to select one with primarily naturally occurring sugars (not added), that are a good source of fiber, protein and/or healthy fats.  Sugary cereals, pastries, donuts, or anything swimming in syrup is not likely to give anyone the lasting energy they will need to get through first period, never mind getting them to lunchtime.   Avoiding cereals with more than 10 grams of sugar per serving is a smart approach, or anything that lists sugar as the first or second ingredient.  Also watch out for the sneaky sugar sources – foods that seem healthy, but are loaded with sugar.  Although they can be a good source of protein and calcium, and some of the sugar is naturally-occurring, certain brands of yogurt can also have a lot of added sugar.   Read labels – look at the grams of sugar, and also the percentage of calcium in the yogurt.  The higher the percentage of calcium, typically – the less sugar, choose brands that are closer to 30% calcium.  Some other sneaky “health foods’ are muffins and granola – both can be full of sugar.  Try to choose the lowest sugar option, or better yet – make it yourself!  The best way to watch your sugar intake is to make it yourself and become a label-reader – get familiar with the sugar content in the foods you are feeding your kids.  Next time you are at the store, see if there is a better choice – there often is!  Have you ever added up all the sugar you or your kids eat in a day?  Try it – it might shock you!

2. Trans fats.   Do doughnuts Make you Dumber?  Increasing all fats in the diet is not the answer.  There are some fats that we want to avoid: trans fats.  Trans fats are “altered fats,” which are created when food heated in fats for a long period (ie: deep fried), or when they are hydrogenated (ie: margarine).  Trans fats tend to be solid at body temperature, and therefore act more like saturated fats, making cells more rigid and inflexible, and interfering with normal functioning of cell membranes.  Studies have shown that trans fats can interfere with DHA utilization in the brain, leading to diminished brain functioning. Additionally, trans fats have been shown to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Foods that contain trans fat include; doughnuts, margarines, mayonnaise, salad dressings, french fries and other fast foods, and many processed/packaged foods like cakes, pastries, cookies, etc.  Even if the package says “contains no trans fats”, it can contain them – in small amounts (if there is less than 1 gram, they can claim no trans fats).  Avoiding or limiting processed and packaged foods, or anything that says “may contain partially hydrogenated soybean, sunflower, safflower, or corn oil” on the label will help you steer clear of trans fats.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is generally too high in omega 6 fats, and deficient in omega 3s.  This imbalance leads to chronic inflammation, a foundation of most degenerative diseases.  Besides behavior, focus and attention issues, some other signs of fatty acid imbalances are: dry or cracked skin, dandruff/dry hair, dry eyes, allergies, poor wound healing, fatigue, frequent infections, and excessive thirst.  Other disorders that have been linked to fatty acid imbalances: Alzheimers/dementia, autoimmune disorders, MS, Schizophrenia, Depression, aggression, migraines, neurological diseases, tinnitis, and more.

3. Artificial Colors, Preservatives, other Chemicals. The jury is still out as far as the FDA is concerned, but several studies have revealed that certain susceptible kids are negatively affected by the chemicals in artificial coloring, especially kids with ADHD and Autism.   So when there are plenty of alternatives, why would we feed our kids a cereal or another food that has artificial colors in them?  According to the Mayo Clinic, kids who are prone to hyperactivity should especially avoid foods with yellow dye numbers 5, 6 and 10, as well as sodium benzoate and red dye number 40.  Look at the ingredients list on all cereals, on the sparkly toothpaste your kids uses in the morning, some brands of flavored yogurts, some strawberry flavored milk, and some “fruit” drinks.  If it is brightly colored, chances are the color came from artificial sources.  Choosing organic cereal, yogurt and natural toothpastes is a good approach, as you can be sure that there are not artificial colors in anything that has the USDA certified organic label.  But even some natural compounds can be a problem – salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals that can create issues in individuals with ADHD. Dehydrated fruits, fresh berries, tomatoes, tea, licorice, peppermint candy/extract, cucumbers and spices such as curry powder, paprika, thyme and rosemary can all contain salicylates.

A study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that eating a healthy diet in childhood can be associated with small increases in I.Q.  Breakfast could be the tipping point to make or break students’ ability to pay attention and focus in class.  But a better diet may not be the full answer for all kids.  There are a number of physiological reasons that can cause behavior and attention problems, including but not limited to ADHD.  Read: Is it ADD or NDD? for more information about various physiological reasons for attention and behavior issues.


Note: This article was originally written in 2011, it was edited in 2014.

September is ADHD Awareness Month.

There are a number of physiological reasons that kids might be having trouble focusing or paying attention in school, including and not limited to – ADHD.   In the past decade, cases of ADHD have risen from 6.9% to 9% according to the CDC. It is estimated the 3-5% of school aged kids have ADHD, with more boys receiving the diagnosis. Many cases of ADHD also go undiagnosed each year. But many cases of ADHD are also misdiagnosed.

12 Possible Causes for ADHD-Type Symptoms:

There are numerous reasons that can lead to poor attention and focus. Below is a list of 12 common culprits of underlying medical issues, including but not limited to ADHD that can cause problems with mood, behavior, focus, and attention in class.

  1. NDD: According to Dr. William Sears, some kids that are suffering from attention problems simply have what he calls NDD – Nutrition Deficit Disorder.  What we eat feeds our brains, bodies, and mood.  If we make poor dietary choices, it can cause problems in energy, focus/attention, and mood; all of which can cause performance problems in school.  A recent Australian studyfound that consuming a “Western” or Standard American Diet (SAD), increased the likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis.  Generally characterized as more packaged, sweetened, processed, fried and refined foods – in general, the SAD contains more convenience foods.  Consuming a diet that is low in healthy fats, fiber and lacking nutrients can reduce the brain’s ability to function optimally.  Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for optimal brain function.  According to a 1996 Purdue University study,boys with learning and behavior problems have lower levels of the omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood.  Omega 3s are found in:  fatty fish like salmon, some nuts and seeds (like flax and chia seeds), and fish oils.  Adding a fish oil or another omega 3 supplement in the morningis an easy way to boost those omega 3s.  Kids definitely will run the other way if it smells or tastes fishy, so here are some delicious options, with no fishy taste or smell:

    Read: Breakfast of Champions for some good breakfast tips to help your kid get off on the right start for school.  But while a better diet can offer small or large improvements in attention, it may not be the full answer for everyone.

  2. Food allergies and sensitivities alone can cause symptoms that closely resemble ADHD.  The most common culprits are dairy, wheat and/or gluten.  Even if your child does not test positive for a full-blown allergy, they could be sensitive to a particular food.  Other signs that your child could be sensitive to dairy or another food – digestive issues, a constant runny nose, raised bumps or eczema on the skin, bed-wetting, moodiness, the feeling/need to clear their throat, headaches, recurrant infections (ears, sinus), dark circles under eyes, and more.  Trying an allergy-elimination diet is a simple cost-effective way to see if there is a behavior change associated with the removal of that food.  Remove the food for 2-3 weeks, and then reintroduce several times in one day.  Notice if there is a decrease in symptoms when the food is removed, and an increase in the symptoms when reintroduced.  Do not attempt this method without the help of a Doctor for any suspected or diagnosed severe food allergies such as peanuts, which can be life-threatening
  3. Chemical Sensitivities have been linked in several studies to worsening of ADHD and Autism symptoms.   According to the Mayo Clinic, kids who are prone to hyperactivity should especially avoid foods with yellow dye numbers 5, 6 and 10; as well as sodium benzoate and red dye number 40.  But even some natural compounds can be a problem – salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals that can create issues in individuals with ADHD. Dehydrated fruits, fresh berries, tomatoes, tea, licorice, peppermint candy/extract, cucumbers and spices such as curry powder, paprika, thyme and rosemary can all contain salicylates.
  4. ADHD: Defined as inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination of these symptoms, which are out of the normal range for their age. The symptoms must be present before age 7 and for more than 6 months; and also be severe enough to cause disruption in school, at home, and with friends.  Not all kids with ADD are hyperactive.  Some kids (especially girls) suffer from the inattentive kind of ADD only, which is more likely to go undiagnosed because they do not exhibit the “typical’ behavioral issues associated with ADHD. According to Dr. Amen, ADHD is not a single disorder, but one of six different disorders.  So a drug that successfully treats one type, might make another type worse.  Read more about ADHD from the Amen Clinics.
  5. Dyslexia is a language disorder that affects perception, communication; and the ability to read, write, and spell.  10-15% of the population has dyslexia, yet only about 5% are diagnosed with the disorder.  About 60% of people with ADHD also have dyslexia.
  6. Sleep Apnea: Often characterized by loud snoring, mouth breathing, enlarged tonsils/adenoids, and daytime sleepiness; kids with sleep apnea stop breathing several times throughout the night, so they just are not getting restful sleep.  Poor sleep can lead to poor performance, low attention, and other problems in school.  It is important to diagnose sleep apnea because in addition to attention problems, it can lead to poor growth, headaches, high blood pressure, as well as heart and lung problems later in life.
  7. Visual Processing Disorder (VPS) is a difficulty correctly processing the information that the eyes take in.  Not a problem with sight or sharpness, VPS occur in the brain.  Even kids with 20/20 vision can have difficulties discriminating foreground from background, forms, size, and position in space.  Visual processing disorder frequently can result in dyslexia and poor academic performance.
  8. Stress: Family changes such as a move, divorce, or the loss of a pet or family member can all cause issues with behavior and attention.  The difference between stress-induced attention issues and ADD, is that the onset of the behavior can typically be linked to the stressful event or time period.
  9. Heavy Metal toxicity: Studies show that Lead poisoning  and other heavy metals and other environmental causes can lead to symptoms that resemble ADHD.
  10. Various Deficiencies:  Anema – Iron Deficiency Anemia should be considered if you have a child that is being evaluated for ADHD or behavioral issues.  Magnesium:  A 1997 study found that found magnesium deficiencies in 95% of ADHD kids tested.  DHA: A 1995 Purdue University study revealed that individuals with learning and behavior problems had lower levels of the omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood. Zinc deficiencies are also linked to ADD and attention problems.
  11. Right Brain/Visual-Spatial Dominant: People who are right-brain dominant tend to be very creative, out of the box thinkers, and good with spatial solutions.  But they may not excel in a linear learning environment which relies heavily on sequencing and auditory lessons.  Sitting down to dozens of worksheets is a right brain learners worst nightmare.  Find out which hemisphere of your brain is more dominant.  The best scenario is to be balanced between the two, but many people will be more dominant on one side or the other.  Teachers who use visualizations, and hands on learning, can help right brain dominant people connect to the lessons.
  12. Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD)/Sensory Processing Issues – Now affecting 1 out of 110 children, learn more about Autism and the related disorders from Autism Speaks.  Read about how the GFCFSF diet can improve symptoms of Autism.

Click here for some other possible causes of ADHD-type symptoms. A child with any of the above disorders is not a ‘bad’ kid, their brain might just not be functioning optimally – even with an improved diet.  Some people might benefit from nutritional supplements, therapy, medication, or a combination.  If you have tried all the dietary and allergy elimination approaches and still suspect that another issue that could be affecting your child’s attention, see below for a short list of books and websites that can offer more information.  Or email to schedule a personal nutrition consultation. A study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that eating a healthy diet in childhood can be associated with small increases in I.Q.



The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. Theobroma cacao, is the name of the tree where cacao beans are harvested. All chocolate comes from cacao beans which are the seeds of the Theobroma tree.  The word cacao means “food of the gods.”
First domesticated by the Mayans over 2,000 years ago, cacao is one of the most nutritionally complex foods on earth, with over 300 compounds.  Cacao has an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 95,500 per 100 grams, making it one of the best sources of antioxidants.

When I am craving a mid-afternoon or after dinner treat, my go to is a piece of dark chocolate.  A former milk chocolate fan, now I prefer dark chocolate for many reasons:

Cacao  has a rich history of use as medicine, and because the health benefits were so revered, it was even used as currency.  Cacao is rich in minerals and antioxidants including potassium, magnesium, iron, polyphenols, flavanols, theobromine, and proanthocyanidins.  Cacao offers a long list of health benefits including reducing heart attack and stroke, lowering blood pressure, boosting mood and brain function, protection against Alzheimers disease, lowering stress, relaxing muscles, boosting our skin’s internal SPF, and much more.

Switch to Dark Chocolate

Although eating milk chocolate will offer a small health benefit, the higher sugar content probably outweighs much of the benefits.  Dark chocolate has significantly more nutrients, and less negatives (less sugar). People with a very strong sweet tooth will need time to adjust to dark chocolate, but it is possible to develop a taste, and even a preference for dark chocolate.   First start by switching over to a better brand – Green & Blacks milk chocolate has 34% cacao, which is a higher cacao content than the average milk chocolate bar.  Give a 60% cacao chocolate bar a try, it will be slightly more bitter than milk chocolate, but still will have a nice hint of sweetness.  Once you have adjusted, then move on up to 70% cacao.  Some people who like bitter tastes will even like 80% or higher cacao.  Righteously Raw makes a number of delicious raw chocolate bars, their caramel dark raw chocolate bar has 90% raw cacao, and contains no refined sugar.

You can add cacao nibs to recipes for a chocolate nutty flavor, or you can even make dark chocolate at home, with just 5 ingredients – watch this video, or view the original recipe from Sunfood.  Warning – once you make your own dark chocolate, it will be hard to buy it again!

Calorie Free Chocolate?

Not all chocolate contains calories – there are some calorie-free alternatives.  This past Spring I was so excited to discover Tisano chocolate tea at Food Expo West in L.A. Made from the shells of the cacao beans, Tisano contains tannins, catechins, polyphenols, theobromine and other antioxidant agents. Tisano has a rich chocolate taste – and offers the mood-boosting benefits, but without the fat or calories of chocolate bars.

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