100% Guilt-Free & Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse

November 3, 2013
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Usually if something sounds too good to be true – it is.  Except in this case!!

This superfood version of chocolate mousse is dairy free and 100% guilt free!!  It is also rich in fiber, omega 3s, magnesium, has no sugar and whips up in minutes!  I know, hard to believe – but all true!  It is a rich and creamy delicious chocolatty delight!!  And unlike other chocolate mousses, this one will not spike your bloodsugar.  It will fill you up, and keep your hunger hormones in control and keep you satisfied for hours!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado (but not too ripe/brown)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 3 Tablespoons virgin unrefined coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup of alternative milk (I used cashew)
  • A splash of vanilla extract or powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of plant-based protein powder (I used Warrior Blend chocolate)
  • 1-2 pinches of Pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 2 ice cubes*
  • Approx. 12 drops of Stevia liquid (I used 365 Brand from Whole Foods)
  • Optional – top with a handful of raw cacao nibs (or shredded coconut, chopped nuts, goji berries, or whatever you choose!)

* The ice cubes are primarily to chill the mousse, you can omit if you are making it and not eating it right away. Put into the refrigerator to chill.

Note – this recipe requires a Vitamix blender that has a “tamper” – the tool that helps to process thicker recipes, stirring ingredients and removing air pockets in the blender.

Directions:

  1. Warm the coconut oil over low heat on the stove to turn to liquid (skip this step in the hot summer months when it is already liquid)
  2. Put the cashew milk into the Vitamix with the chia seeds and protein powder.  Let soak for about 3-5 minutes, or until the chia seeds are softened.
  3. Then add in the avocado flesh, vanilla, raw cacao, coconut oil, and whip it together until no lumps are visible.
  4. Add in the couple of pinches of Himalayan salt, 1/2 a frozen banana, ice cubes (if using) and stevia – taste and adjust for sweetness.  Sometimes, it is salt that you need more of, and not the sweetener!!

Put into a container in the refrigerator, or pour into a dish and enjoy.  This can make 1 large serving, or two small ones.

This is a Perfect Metabolism program recipe!

Read Cuckoo for Coconut oil to learn more about the health benefits of coconut oil.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes (Gluten Free & Vegan)

February 10, 2013
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Serve these delicious Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes for Valentines Day!

  • They are gluten free – so your gluten free loved ones can enjoy a special treat this Valentines Day.
  • These cupcakes contain a healthy dose of cacao, which is high in magnesium and polyphenols – important for heart health.  Dark chocolate has been shown to lower heart attack and stroke risk by 30%.
  • Made with coconut oil which is high in lauric acid, which is useful for lowering cholesterol and protecting the heart.  High in medium chain fatty acids, coconut oil is more easily converted into energy than other oils, so it is less likely to get stored as fat.  Coconut oil also in a natural antibacterial, antiviral, and so it is a powerful tool for our immune system.  Coconut oil is also good for the thyroid too.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend
  • 3/4 cup cacao powder (such as Sunfood), if you can’t find cacao powder – you can use cocoa powder.
  • 1 teaspooon gluten free baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (such as Real Salt)
  • 1 large avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup agave (such as Nature’s Agave)
  • 30 drops of Stevia liquid
  • 3/4 cup flaxmilk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 15 drops of Stevia
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of flax milk (or another alternative milk)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries (optional)
  • Fresh raspberries to top each cupcake (optional).

Frosting Directions:

Melt the coconut oil gently over low heat on the stovetop, or in a Pyrex dish in a hot water bath. Then mix together all the ingredients in a blender or food processor (except the raspberries).  Add the 1/4 cup raspberries and process until combined*. If using frozen, it will instantly thicken the frosting.  Spoon out into a bowl and place in refrigerator to chill.  Rinse and set aside the fresh raspberries for topping the cupcakes.

*Note: If you do not want the frosting to be raspberry flavored, just omit the raspberries.  It will have a slight coconut taste – if you do not like that – replace the coconut oil with organic butter (this is a non-vegan option).

Cupcake Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line the mini muffin tins with paper lines, or grease with coconut oil.
  3. If you did not line them, mix together 3 Tablespoons of cacao powder and 3 Tablespoons gluten free flour, and use it to dust the muffin tin, pour out excess. This is not essential, but will help the cupcakes to release from the pan.
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set them aside.
  5. Slice the avocado open, remove the pit, and spoon the flesh into a food processor, puree it until it is smooth.
  6. Then add in the sweeteners, flaxmilk, vanilla, and pulse to combine.
  7. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until combined.
  8. Finally, add the melted coconut oil, and mix until combined.
  9. Spoon batter into mini muffin tins.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 17 minutes – test with a toothpick to see if the cupcakes are done, it should come out clean when poked.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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CocoNuttZo Dark Chocolates!

February 2, 2013
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It is no wonder we celebrate Valentines Day with chocolate – cacao, one of chocolate’s key ingredients, contains high levels of Phenylethylamine, referred to as the love chemical, because our bodies produce it when we fall in love!

A heart healthy food, dark chocolate is perfect for February, because it is National Heart Health month.  Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and even Alzheimers disease.

This recipe for CocoNuttZo Dark Chocolates takes chocolate to a whole other level, combining some of my favorite superfoods to make a super healthy chocolate!

Scroll down below the recipe for more information about the superfoods in this recipe.

 

 

CocoNuttZo Dark Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup virgin fresh pressed coconut oil (I use Barleans)
  • 1/3 cup of NuttZo nut butterred-jar
  • 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder (I use Sunfood)
  • 2 teaspoons of organic agave nectar (I use Nature’s Agave)
  • 12 drops of Stevia liquid
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • small pinch of high quality salt, such as Real Salt.

Directions:

  1. Gently warm the coconut oil over low heat on the stovetop, until it is melted.
  2. Take off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two.
  3. Put the melted coconut oil, NuttZo, raw cacao powder into blender and blend on low speed to combine.
  4. Taste and adjust for sweetness (some might like these a little sweeter, just add a little more agave or Stevia).
  5. Pour into silicon ice cube trays, or candy mold trays.
  6. Pop into freezer for ten mins – and they are ready to eat!
  7. These are best kept stored in the freezer.

More about the Superfood ingredients in this recipe:

CACAO:  Historically, cacao has been used both as medicine and as currency.  Cacao is the #1 food source of magnesium, which is probably one of the big reasons it is so good for our heart – magnesium has been shown in studies to lower the risk of heart disease mortality by 50%!  Cacao also contains potassium, iron, polyphenols, flavanols, theobromine, and proanthocyanidins.  Cacao’s long list of health benefits include 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.  I choose Sunfood raw cacao, because raw cacao has a higher antioxidant content than cocoa, and it even has a higher antioxidant rating than blueberries, acai, and even goji berries.

COCONUT OIL:  In Sanskrit, coconuts are called “Kalpa Vriksha” which means: “The tree that gives all that is necessary for life.”  Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, which gets burned as fuel faster (so less likely to be converted to fat). It is also one of the most beneficial oils for our heart heath. Coconut oil is comprised of about 50% lauric acid, which is immune boosting, anti viral, anti bacterial, and helpful in lowering high cholesterol & high blood pressure. Coconut oil boosts HDL cholesterol, which helps to usher out the bad cholesterol. It also helps to regulate our hunger hormones and insulin levels. Coconut oil helps the body to absorb vitamins and minerals, and it also is more stable – meaning it will not oxidize – oxidized fats promote heart disease, certain cancers, and other diseases.  Coconut oil has also been touted for prevention/treatment for Alzheimers disease. When choosing a coconut oil, I like to look for quality unrefined, organic cold pressed oils – such as Barleans.  Because of all the benefits, I recommend to all my cleanse participants to take coconut oil every day. But not everyone is a big fan of eating straight coconut oil – so that is why I came up with this recipe for dark chocolates made with Nuttzo nut butter.

NuttZo:  The best nut butter on the planet, NuttZo is a wonderful blend of 7 different organic nuts and seeds. NuttZo contains chia and flax seeds, which provide a healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acids, which are critical for prevention of heart disease and many other diseases.  It also contains Brazil nuts, which are one of the best food sources of selenium, a powerful antioxidant which has been proven to protect the body against infection, and certain types of cancer.  And it has pumpkin seeds which are naturally anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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The Healthiest Hot Chocolate – Ever!!

December 4, 2012
Greens Chocolate 9.52oz (72dpi)

When there is a bit of a chill in the air, curling up on the couch with a nice cup of hot chocolate is a delicious way to warm up.  My kids love hot chocolate – but I don’t love the kind made with those hot chocolate packets – each cup contains 20 grams of sugar (5 teaspoons!) and a bunch of other no-so-healthy ingredients we try to avoid. Here is the ingredients list from a popular brand:

SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, VEGETABLE OIL (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OR PALM KERNEL AND HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN), DAIRY PRODUCT SOLIDS, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, AND LESS THAN 2% OF CELLULOSE GUM, NONFAT MILK, SALT, SODIUM CASEINATE, SODIUM CITRATE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, GUAR GUM, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS.

Then I found the perfect solution – delicious and healthy hot chocolate – thanks to Barleans Chocolate Greens!  First of all, these greens are like no other – they do not taste “greenish” or look at all green – so they are great for kids, especially picky ones. They are not grainy at all either – they stir in totally smooth into your liquid.  Each serving contains more than 5 servings of vegetables, probiotics, superfood greens, and much more!  So when I read that it makes a yummy hot chocolate – we decided to give it a try – and it definitely makes a delicious and super healthy cup of hot chocolate (or chocolate milk, or chocolate smoothie)!

I wasn’t expecting my daughter to like it, who is a mostly reformed, but still a little bit of picky eater, and definitely a supertaster – so when she gave it the thumbs up, I was totally elated.

There are a couple ways to make it:

  1. Just warm 8 oz. of milk in a saucepan on the stove (whole organic works great, or 1/4 cup of So Delicious coconut creamer mixed with 3/4 cup of another type of non-dairy milk is also a winner.  When the milk is nice and warm (not boiling), remove from heat, and add a scoop of Barleans Chocolate Silk Greens, stir well to combine.  Taste it before serving – my kids like it best with just a little bit of clear Natures Agave nectar added too (approx 1/2 – 1 teaspoon).
  2. You can also do this in your Vitamix if you have one – no stove required.  Just put the milk in the Vitamix, turn on high and let run for about 5-7 minutes, then add the greens at the end – turn back on to incorporate, and serve.

Pour your hot chocolate into a mug, and serve.  Optional – you could even use a mini organic

candy cane to stir – it will give it a nice minty taste.  Or top with some Elyon gluten free mini marshmallows, available at Whole Foods markets.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart (Gluten and Grain Free)

November 19, 2012
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I am not a fan of pecan pie – I find it way too sweet, and don’t like how it is kind of gelatinous.  But I know it is a traditional pie for Thanksgiving. So I came up with this Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart – which just so happens to be gluten and grain free too.  It also has no Karo syrup (like traditional pecan pie), or sugar (uses organic agave nectar and stevia instead).  Try it this Thanksgiving, or any other time you want to impress your guests (or when you are craving chocolate)!  It is a nice treat – but won’t send you off the deep end like traditional pecan pie.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Crust:

  • 1 & 1/2 cup of almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tablespoons agave nectar (or organic sugar)
  • 1/3 cup butter (or coconut oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ice water

Directions:

  1. Put butter in the freezer (for about 15 mins.)
  2. Put the almond and coconut flours and salt into food processor, pulse to combine.
  3. Take butter out of freezer and using a wide grater – grate it into food processor (or cut into small chunks).
  4. Add in the agave, and pulse to combine (it should be crumb-like).
  5. Then add 2 teaspoons of ice cold water.  Pulse to combine – it should come together into a big ball, if it does not – add a little bit more ice water.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and put into refrigerator (or freezer) to chill.

Filling:

  • 1 & 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (or 1/3 cup agave nectar and 30 drops of Stevia liquid, or go with your preferred natural sweetener)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Gently melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil on low heat or a double boiler on the stove – be careful to not burn the chocolate!  Finely chop the pecans.  Take the chocolate and coconut oil off the stove and allow to cool just slightly.  Put the pecans into a bowl, add in the melted chocolate and coconut oil, vanilla, agave nectar, (and Stevia if using), salt, and mix together.  Taste before putting in the egg – is it sweet enough?  If not, add some more stevia or agave, stir to combine. Taste again.  Crack the egg into a separate bowl, and gently whip it.  Now stir it into the other ingredients until combined well (make sure the chocolate mixture is not too hot first).
  2. Remove the crust from the refrigerator, and roll it out in between 2 parchment or saran wrap* sheets, or simply press into a large tart pan (pan does not need to be greased first – there is plenty of fats in the dough. *Note: rolling it without the parchment or saran wrap won’t work – it will be too crumbly). Make sure the crust comes up a little bit on the sides, patch any holes.
  3. Spread in the filling using a spoon or spatula to make sure is equally distributed to the ends.
  4. Decorate the center of the pie with some whole pecans.
  5. Put into a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is slightly browned (keep an eye on it to make sure it does not burn).
  6. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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The Choco-Banana Super Smoothie

July 7, 2012
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We are big drinkers in our house – smoothie drinkers that is.

We put our Vitamix to work every morning, starting almost every day with a smoothie.  I find smoothies to be a great way to sneak in superfoods like chia seeds and greens powders, and also veggies too. My daughter was getting really tired of the fruit smoothies, and so for a while she was skipping her morning smoothie – so she wasn’t getting her superfoods.  So I decided to make her a Chocolate Superfood smoothie one morning, and now it is her favorite (she actually prefers hers without the banana, my son likes extra banana, so it is adjustable)!  If you make it without the banana, just add an extra ice cube or two to thicken it up.

Have you heard about the study that found chocolate milk to be a great post-workout drink?  This drink offers all the benefits of chocolate milk, plus so much more (and by being non-dairy, it is not mucus-producing like dairy can be.  And many people can not digest the lactose in milk).

This smoothie is like having a yummy chocolate milkshake for breakfast (great for a pre or post workout snack too).

Choco-Banana Super Smoothie

Makes two smoothies (approx. 5 oz. each)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of coconut water
  • 2 Tablespoons of raw cacao powder (I like Sunfood)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds (put in coconut water to soak & soften for 3-5 mins first)
  • 1 small handful of baby spinach or a 1/2 scoop of greens powder (such as Barleans Chocolate Silk Greens or Green Vibrance)
  • a small pinch of pink Himalayan salt (or air dried sea salt) – things adds minerals and brings out the sweetness – don’t skip it!!
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I like Sun Warrior)
  • 1/2 a frozen banana
  • 2/3 cup of ice
  • Optional: 1-2 teaspoons of almond butter
  • Optional: sweeten to taste with your favorite natural sweetener (like Stevia, Agave nectar (I like Natures Agave) or raw honey to taste)

Put everything into blender except ice and frozen banana.  Blend to combine well.  Then add frozen banana and ice, blend well.  Serve immediately.

This smoothie has so many benefits:

  • Good source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, Vitamin D3, magnesium, and Vitamin K – great for bone health and athletes.
  • Alkalizing
  • High fiber content, to boost digestion
  • Contains probiotics – which boost immunity and digestion
  • Excellent source of omega 3s.
  • Good source of protein and carbohydrates, and a little sodium, all great for post-workout.
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Contains adaptogens – which help the body to regulate the hormones and endocrine system.
  • And best of all, it tastes great!

So give it a try at home and let me know what you (and the kids) think!

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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The Best Black Bean Brownies – Ever!

May 9, 2012
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I love black beans – they are excellent for our digestion, and are high in a kind of fiber called resistant starch – which helps to make us feel fuller and can travel all the way through our digestive tract without being digested. Resistant starch has been shown to help promote weight loss.  Recent research has linked consumption of beans to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer.  The American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society–all recommend legumes as a key food group for preventing disease and optimizing health.  Beans also contain antioxidants, and flavinoids.

Another food that is heart healthy is dark chocolate.  Studies have shown that daily consumption of a small amount of dark chocolate can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by over 30%.  Also high in magnesium, read I Heart Dark Chocolate to learn more health benefits of dark chocolate.

So dark chocolate black bean brownies are a much healthier way to get your chocolate fix than traditional brownies.  But when I was researching black bean brownies a while back, I tried a few recipes that I found online – and there was something missing – they were too mushy and dense.

So this recipe fixed the mushiness by adding coconut flour (high in fiber, gluten free) and xantham gum (helpful in gluten free baking). And these brownies have one other benefit – they contains chia seeds – which are high in omega 3s, and also an excellent source of fiber.

I used to use canned black beans to make this, but now I make my black beans from scratch – read why.

THE BEST Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies!

Servings: 20 small squares

Description:

These dark chocolate brownies are a great alternative to traditional brownies – if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t guess that the main ingredient are black beans.  In addition, the chia seeds add fiber and Omega 3s, the coconut flour is gluten-free and a high fiber food.  And dark chocolate is a superfood with antioxidants.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of prepared black beans (or a 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed)
  • ½ cup of organic unsalted butter (or coconut oil for a dairy-free version)
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips (ideally 60% cacao) – Use semi-sweet if you can’t find dark.
  • ¼ cup unsweetened raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa if you can’t find cacao)
  • 2/3 cup organic granulated sugar (or sub coconut/palm sugar)
  • 2 organic eggs
  • ⅓ cup agave nectar (or sub maple syrup or raw honey – your preference)
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seed (soaked in 4 Tablespoons of water)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum (you can make it without this, it will be more fudgy)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour (if you can not find coconut flour substitute another flour, such as Teff, Quinoa or another gluten free flour – or leave out the flour for a softer, more fudge-like brownie).
  • Optional: Additional chocolate chips for the top, and/or powder sugar for dusting

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease with butter or coconut oil an 8×8″ or 9×9” pan and set aside.

Puree the black beans in a food processor or blender (must be a powerful one like a Vitamix).  Add a little water if needed to puree.  Melt butter and dark chocolate chips on a double boiler or carefully in microwave (do not overheat).  Allow to cool slightly.  Crack eggs into a glass measuring cup, and whisk, then add sugar and agave nectar, and soaked chia seed – whisk all together well with a fork.  Put the melted butter & chocolate, pureed black beans and all other ingredients into the food processor and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Optional – top with additional dark chocolate chips (mini chips work best).

Bake approximately 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing and serving.  Store in refrigerator or air-tight container.  Enjoy!

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Cuckoo for Coconut Oil!

April 13, 2012
coconut_lg

One of nature’s perfect superfoods – coconut oil has almost endless uses and is definitely on my must-have healthy shopping list!   In Sanskrit, coconuts are called “Kalpa Vriksha” which means: “The tree that gives all that is necessary for life.”  When choosing a coconut oil, I like to look for quality unrefined, organic cold pressed oils – such as Barleans.  Each & every Barleans coconut is sourced from the Phillipine isles and hand selected and picked fresh from the tree at it’s peak of flavor, aroma & nutritional value.<

1. A Healthy Fat:

Many people think because it is a saturated fat, that it is not good for you. But that could not be further from the truth!

  • Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, which gets burned as fuel faster (so less likely to be converted to fat).
  • Coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.  Coconut oil boosts HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol that helps to usher out cholesterol.
  • Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also helps in effective utilization of blood glucose, assisting with preventing and treating diabetes.
  • Coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important vitamins and minerals, including including calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for development of strong bones.
  • Coconut oil has also been shown to help boost and balance the thyroid gland.

2. Ideal Cooking Oil:

  • It has a high smoking point so it is great for cooking because it does not oxidize at high temps (even olive oil should not be heated above medium ideally).
  • Some Suggested Ways to Cook with it:
    • Make popcorn – toss out the microwave popcorn, and pop your own on the stove top with 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil, and top with melted Earth Balance organic coconut spread & sea salt or pink Himalyan salt- yummy & good for you!
    • Saute your veggies in it (your body absorbs fat soluble vitamins better when they are consumed with healthy fat like coconut oil).  Some people even like to take their multivitamin with a little coconut oil.
    • Make home made dark chocolate – it is super easy to make, and only has 5 ingredients, try this recipe!!   (Cacao is another superfood too, read more.)
    • You can even pour the homemade chocolate on ice cream for some homemade magic shell – the chocolate sauce that hardens on ice cream!!  YUM! Kids love it.

3. Great for Skin & Hair:

  • A great skin moisturizer for skin and hair, it is useful for hydration, but also for wrinkle prevention and healing.
  • Because it is moisturizing and anti-bacterial/viral, coconut oil helps to treat various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, or skin infections.
  • Helps to heal and soothe bug bites, it can also be used as a natural bug repellant (add a few drops of tea tree oil and/or rosemary oil).
  • Massaging coconut oil into the scalp not only can moisturize hair, but it contributes protein to the hair and can help to prevent dandruff, and even lice.

4. Boosts Immune System

  • Coconut oil is rich in polyphenols and Lauric acid – which are shown to boost the immune system, and fights fungal, bacterial and viral infections.  Lauric acid is one of the main reasons that breast milk is immune-boosting.
  • Has natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, so great for digestion and cleansing, it can even be used as a natural deodorant (internal and external)!
5. Good for your Brain!
  • Shown to boost brain functioning (potentially even lowering Alzheimer risk/reducing symptoms). Some experts recommend taking 1 or 2 spoonfuls a day for Alzheimer prevention!  I like to get my daily dose of coconut oil from homemade dark chocolate – it has 4 ingredients and you can make it in about 15 mins!  Definitely guilt free chocolate.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Dark Chocolate Made with Coconut Oil

February 24, 2012
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Homemade dark chocolate is one of the easiest things to make, this recipe has only 5 ingredients and is ready in no time.

Dark chocolate is shown to lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and even Alzheimers.  Cacao gives dark chocolate it’s flavor and also is high in minerals and antioxidants, read I Heart Dark Chocolate to learn more about the many health benefits of cacao.  In this recipe, I also use coconut oil, which offers many health benefits – including Alzheimer’s disease prevention, and potentially even reversal, according to this article.   It is estimated that as many as 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, which is also linked to Alzheimers and other disorders like ADD, muscle aches and osteoporosis, read article from Natural News.  This homemade dark chocolate is a delicious and healthy way to get a daily dose of heart health benefits and Alzheimers protection – so enjoy a square of this dark chocolate without any guilt!

Homemade Dark Chocolate

Ingredients:

Melt the coconut oil (I like to use a double boiler on simmer), allow to cool just slightly, then put all ingredients into a bowl – whisk together to combine well.  Pour into a mold (I like the Tovolo ice cube molds), and put in freezer.  They should be ready in 15 mins!!

They taste a little like a Mounds candy bar. This recipe has to come with a warning – you will find it hard to buy dark chocolate at the store ever again after trying this!   Best kept stored in freezer.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Foods to Lower Cholesterol

February 13, 2012
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Having elevated LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.  “If you have too much cholesterol, your internal machinery is not going to be able to take away enough cholesterol from the cells,” says Yeon-Kyun Shin, a biophysics professor in the department of biochemistry at Iowa State. “Then cells harden and you can get these deposits.”  But our bodies also need cholesterol for many important functions, such as building cells, manufacturing hormones; and with one quarter of the body’s cholesterol in the brain, it is important for brain activity.  Rather than just lowering overall cholesterol, ideally we want to optimize our ratio of LDL to HDL:

  • Lower LDL: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is associated with clogging our arteries and therefore an increased risk of heart disease.  Some experts have even broken down LDL into 2 more categories – the larger less damaging “fluffy” LDL particles, and the smaller more dense particles that are likely to oxidize and cause damage to the arteries. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, optimal levels of LDL are below 100, near optimal levels are between 100-129, borderline is 130-159, between 160-189 is high, and above 190 is very high.
  • Raise HDL: High density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good” cholesterol, which helps to usher out LDL or bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.  High HDL (over 60 mg/dL)  is associated with lower heart disease risk.  HDL levels below 40 mg/dL are linked to a higher heart disease risk.

Taking a Foods Based Approach to Lower Cholesterol

Foods and other lifestyle factors can have a powerful impact on our health. According to Dr. Schrott from the University of Iowa, “Although medication is a very effective way to treat high cholesterol, diet and weight loss may be the only things you need to do to lower your cholesterol.”  Prescription medications can come with multiple negative side effects and drug interactions, and can be expensive.  Taking a nutritional approach to lowering cholesterol can offer multiple additional benefits such as anti-aging, lowering risks of many other diseases, improved digestion, energy, and more. And taking a foods based approach is also less likely than prescriptions to lower cholesterol levels too low.  The challenges associated with a nutritional approach, are that people first need to know which foods will help lower cholesterol, and unfortunately it is not as easy as popping a pill each day.

Foods that Lower Cholesterol:

1. Soluble Fiber:  Fiber is very important for our digestion, it helps us to feel fuller, which can be useful to maintain a healthy weight – which is very important for overall heart health.  There are two types of fiber – insoluble (which passes through the digestive system intact and provides bulk), and soluble fiber, which soaks up liquid to create a gel-like substance.  It is soluble fiber which is important for lowering cholesterol.  It sticks to cholesterol binding it and ushering it out of the body before it can enter into circulation, which is perhaps why it is sometimes referred to as “sticky fiber.”  According to Dr. Cho from the Cleveland Clinic, a person must consume at least 3 grams of soluble fiber per day in order for it to help to lower cholesterol.  A study published in the Journal of Family Practice in 2006 found that eating 5 – 10 grams of soluble fiber a day was associated with a 10% to 15% reduction in LDL levels, and a 10-15% lower heart disease risk.  Unfortunately most Americans do not get anywhere near that amount of soluble fiber each day, found in fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Soluble Fiber Sources:

  • Oats/oatmeal (1/2 cup = 2 grams)
  • Legumes – (1/2 cup of black beans – 2.4 grams)
  • Fruits & vegetables – especially eggplant, okra, grapes, apples (1.0 grams), and oranges (1.7 grams)
  • Psyllium (70% soluble fiber) Read about psyllium for lowering cholesterol: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Study.
  • Chia seeds – a highly nutritious and hydrophillic food – soaking up about 10 times it’s weight in water.  Read more.

2. Omega 3s:   For years, people with heart disease were put on strict low fat diets.  But certain fats, particularly omega 3 fatty acids, are very important for our heart health and are shown to lower cholesterol levels. Found in foods like fatty fish, omega 3s are extremely important to our overall health – affecting everything from our brain functioning and our mood to disease prevention and eye health. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to lower our risk of many diseases – including heart disease and cancer.  The Inuit Eskimos get lots of omega 3 fatty acids from their diets which are high in fatty fish, they also tend to have healthy HDL levels and lower triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week.

Some omega 3 sources:

  • Fatty fish – salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, mackerel
  • Fish oils
  • Chia/flax seeds

3. Antioxidants: Powerful botanical antioxidants such as Polyphenols and Flavinoids can offer protection against free radical exposure and offer a wide range of health benefits from anti-aging and boosting the skin’s SPF protection to reducing cancer risk and Alzheimer’s protection.  Polyphenols have been shown in some studies to lower cholesterol by increasing the amount of cholesterol excreted by the body as well as boosting levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Flavinoids such as those found in cocoa have been shown to reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, so have a square of chocolate without guilt!  And then pour yourself a some tea – drinking three cups of green or black tea a day has been shown in studies to improve cholesterol ratios and lower heart attack risk.  Coffee and even red wine (in moderation) can offer beneficial antioxidants.

Some good sources:

  • Cacao/Dark chocolate – 1 oz.  Read more about dark chocolate’s health benefits.
  • Teas – green, black, oolong, etc.
  • Coffee
  • Grapes and other fruit
  • Red wine (in moderation)

4. Plant Sterols.  Over 140 clinical studies show that plant sterols can help reduce LDL blood cholesterol.  Plant sterols occur naturally in plant-based foods, but generally in concentrations that are too low to affect blood cholesterol levels.  But when plant sterols are extracted, they can be concentrated and added to fortify other foods.  Sterols are basically plant cholesterol, which in the human body competes with and prevents the uptake and absorption of cholesterol in the small  intestine.  Sterols are shown to improve the important LDL to HDL ratios, because they lower LDL cholesterol, without affecting the HDL (the good kind).  Plant sterols have been studied for over 50 years, and found to be a safe and effective way to lower cholesterol.  The American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommends that individuals with high cholesterol consume plant sterols and plant stanols from a variety of foods and beverages every day—just as they would use cholesterol-lowering medication to maintain LDL (bad) cholesterol reductions from these products. Studies have found that 1.3 g. of plant sterols can have significant cholesterol lowering effects.  The AHA recommends patients with high cholesterol consume approximately 2 grams of plant sterol/stanols per day.  The average American gets about 250 milligrams (.25 g.) of sterols from plant-based foods daily. Vegetarians average around 700 milligrams.  But people who eat a highly processed diet can get significantly less.

Plant Sterol Sources:

  • Peanuts (.1 g)
  • Sesame Seeds (.1 g)
  • Foods fortified with plant sterols such as Corazonas Tortilla Chips  (.5 g/serving) & Oatmeal Squares (.8 g/serving)

5. Nuts and other plant-based fats:  Nuts are little nutritional powerhouses, containing protein, fiber, healthy fats, and many other excellent nutrients. Nuts are so good for you that in 2003 the FDA made this claim: “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.”  One 2004 study of 58 adults with diabetes looked at the effects of eating a handful of walnuts each day in addition to a healthy diet. The researchers found that on average, people who ate the walnuts had an increase in their good HDL cholesterol and a drop of 10% in their bad LDL cholesterol levels. The results were published in the publication Diabetes Care.

Healthy Fats Sources:

  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Grapeseed oil contains a natural chemical that may help reduce levels of LDL. Check with your doctor if you are taking prescription medications (especially blood thinners) before consuming grapeseed oil.
  • Chia/flax seeds

Foods to Avoid:

It is also important to know which foods to avoid to promote healthy cholesterol levels and heart health.  Many people have been told for years that eggs are bad for our cholesterol.  But new research is showing that for the majority of the population, eating an egg a day will not raise blood cholesterol and is a healthy choice.  According to Harvard Health, the biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats and carbohydrates in your diet—not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food. So more important than avoiding foods with cholesterol in them, is avoiding foods that contain trans fats, which can be found in many packaged, processed, baked goods, most margarines, and fast foods.  Another surprising food to avoid for cholesterol and heart health is sugar. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that added sugars found in packaged foods increased blood lipid levels while lowering the good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

What About Statins?

Statins lower cholesterol by inhibiting HMG CoA reductase, an enzyme that helps the body make cholesterol, which reduces the total cholesterol in the blood according to Dr. Mark Houston, MD.  In the past, statins success at preventing heart attacks, had led doctors to joke about “putting it into the water supply,” according to this USA Today Article.  But increasing research is revealing that raising the HDL cholesterol, which is responsible for removing cholesterol from the blood and delivering it to the liver for removal is as important as lowering LDL for heart health.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, a 2009 study looked at nearly a quarter of a million people who were hospitalized with heart disease, almost half of those people had optimal LDL levels.  Additionally, some studies have linked Statin use to side effects, including:

Adopting healthy dietary and lifestyle habits can help to lower your cholesterol, your overall heart attack risk factors, and many other diseases.  But despite making all the above dietary and lifestyle changes, some people (such as those who have already had a heart attack) might still need a statin.  Patients need to speak to their doctor to assess and develop their personal heart health plan.  But according Dr. Mark Hyman, “You can not take your statin, and then go to McDonald’s and expect it to work.” Dr. Hyman, the founder of The Ultra Wellness Center in Lenox, MA; also says that when it comes to cholesterol medication, men and women are not created equal – read his article Why Women Should Stop Their Cholesterol Lowering Medication.

Note: Persons currently taking cholesterol lowering medications who have questions, or wish to stop taking them (or any prescription medications) should consult with their doctor.  Changes to prescription medications should be done only under their doctor’s care.

Other Heart Health Factors:

Cholesterol is only one piece of the puzzle with regards to heart health. Other important factors to consider are:

  • C-reactive protein (inflammation marker – under 1 is optimal, between 1-3 means average risk)
  • Triglycerides (blood fats, under 1oo md/dL is optimal)
  • Blood pressure (normal is 120/80 or under, learn more)
  • Blood sugar – eating too much sugar is associated with elevated triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, read more.
  • Overall weight & Abdominal/visceral fat – deep abdominal fat is linked to a higher heart disease risk, read more.  Just losing weight lowers heart disease risk.
  • Exercise
  • Stress levels

Additional Supporting Articles/Research:

  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=its-not-dementia-its-your-heart-medication
  • http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/140127.php
  • http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/05/health/la-he-nutrition-20100405
  • http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/egg-nutrition
  • http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/
  • http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/9-surprising-foods-that-may-raise-your-cholesterol
  • http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/diabetes/story/2012-01-09/Study-links-statins-to-higher-diabetes-in-older-women/52470838/1
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17560286
  • http://heartdisease.about.com/lw/Health-Medicine/Conditions-and-diseases/Plant-Sterols-in-Food-Products.htm

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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