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What the heck is raw chocolate? Is chocolate really that healthy? Raw Chocolate is creating a storm across the UK and is a chocolate lovers dream when looking for an alternative to commercially produced chocolate. Here are some common FAQ’s.

What do you mean by ‘raw’? The word ‘raw’ within health food has evolved and means different things to different people. Make It Healthy’s definition of raw are foods which ingredients are;

  • whole, natural and plant based
  • kept away from high temperatures (above 45 degrees C)
  • kept away from chemicals
  • handled with care and processed/blended minimally

How can chocolate be healthy? In 2012, chocolate officially got a healthy stamp from scientists. This is because cocoa is rich in flavanols which helps keep the heart healthy. But not all chocolate is created equally. Dark and minimally processed is best. Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is both of these things.

What is ‘raw chocolate’? Raw chocolate is made from unroasted cocoa beans and usually sweetened with coconut sugar (the crystallised sap from coconut flowers found on coconut trees). This is different to most commercial dark chocolate whereby the cocoa beans are roasted at high temperatures and sometimes chemically treated, which can significantly decrease the flavanol content.

What is Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate? Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is made from organic unroasted cocoa powder, cocoa butter and coconut sugar. Cacao nibs, natural flavours, nuts and seeds are added to give each bar its definitive taste. Commercial chocolate can contain vegetable fat, refined sugars, sweeteners and artificial flavourings and preservatives. As a nutritionist, I only make products that offer maximum nutritional benefits.

What is the difference between the words cocoa and cacao? Cocoa is an anglicised word for cacao, so technically they are the same thing.

What about the fat content of chocolate? Much of chocolates smoothness comes from cocoa butter which consists of 3 types of fat; palmitic, stearic and oleic acid. There is little evidence that cocoa butter increases the risk of heart disease. However, fat is caloric which means that chocolate should definitely be eaten in moderation. Around 10g (of flavanol rich chocolate) per day is recommended for heart health.

What about the sugar content? Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is sweetened with coconut sugar. Coconut sugar contains a fibre called inulin which gives a slow release of energy and helps maintain healthy digestion. It has a rich, caramel flavour and is a perfect, lower GI addition to the Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate recipe.

Is Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate organic and Fairtrade? Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate ingredients are certified organic by The Organic Food Federation. The cacao is from a Fairtrade supplier in Peru.

What about intolerances, allergens and animal products? Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is vegan, free from dairy, soya, gluten. Our bars are nut free but handled in a kitchen where but based products are sometimes made. Seeds and cacao nibs are used to create a crunchy texture in some of the bars.

Can I make my own chocolate? Absolutely! The Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate Kit contains all the ingredients you need to make your own raw chocolate and a recipe sheet. You make it in the box too!

Try our delicious raw chocolate for yourself. Order online or come to our stall at Rode Hall Farmers Market on the first Saturday of the month!

Our dreamy raw chocolate (71% cocoa solids) is available in 4 different flavours, Divine Dark & Pink Salt, Marvellous Mint & Cacao Nibs, Sweet Sultana & Seed, Gorgeous Goji & Orange. Made using raw cacao powder from unroasted cacao beans which are naturally high in iron and rich in flavanols for a healthy heart. Sweetened with coconut sugar – extracted from the flower sap of coconut trees. Coconut sugar tastes delicious and has a low GI compared to white, refined sugar. Our bars are packaged in biodegradable wrappers.

 

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The number of people diagnosed with acne has climbed steadily in recent decades. In the UK, 8 out of 10 people aged 11 to 30 are effected by the disease. For some, it impacts confidence levels, the ability to make friends, relationships and mental health.

So, is there anything we can do for our skin? Can food be our friend when it comes to our complexion? The short answer is… possibly.

For many years, dermatologists denied a connection between the consumption of certain foods (such as chocolate) and acne. However, there is now plenty of research showing that certain dietary changes can reduce the severity of acne – both at the level of individual foods as well as overall dietary habits.

The curse of the ‘Western’ diet

Acne may be closely linked to a calorie rich, Western diet, which consists of foods high in refined carbs, fat, meat and dairy. At this stage, it is important to highlight that fat, meat and dairy are not the enemy. However, there is evidence to suggest that high consumption (i.e. relying on these foods at every meal) can over-activate a protein in our body (mTORC1) which increases hormone secretion and oil production from glands.

Does milk matter?

Milk is often targeted as being a cause of acne and there is weak link between teenage acne and the consumption of skimmed milk, but not whole milk. However, it is just as important to consider the other foods eaten by skimmed milk drinkers and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and drug intake and exercise levels. Milk naturally contains growth hormones and anabolic steroids as it is meant to increase the growth of calves. This gives rise to the theory that milk increases hormone production in our bodies but the evidence is limited and still remains a controversial issue.

Foods that can help

A low glycemic load (GL) diet may help to decrease facial flare ups by reducing inflammation. Sticking to a low GL diet is also beneficial for regulating insulin levels and hormones which can otherwise increase oily secretions in the facial glands. A clinical trial of 43 adults over 10 weeks showed that those on a low GL diet noted an improvement in their acne, compared to the control group who did not. Another study in Australia confirmed that a low GL diet reduced oil secretions and improved clinical symptoms of male acne patients (aged 15-25).

In simple terms, a low GL diet means avoiding white bread, white rice and refined sugar and eating more fibre rich fruits and vegetables, whole bran cereals, whole grain breads, beans and lentils. Whole and semi skimmed milk are also considered low GL foods, along with cashews, peanuts and tomato juice. A low GL diet has added benefits of weight control, better digestion and a reduce in the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

For a skin boosting snack, try our delicious Raw Carrot Cake and Raw Chocolate Energy Truffles made with whole, nutritious ingredients and packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals at the next Rode Hall Farmers Market in Cheshire. Or buy online.

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We are a nation of snackers. Thanks to the wide availability of convenience food in supermarkets, petrol stations and vending machines, we can always find fuel filled snacks to tide us over until our next proper meal. However, relying on certain snack foods such as cakes, chocolate bars, biscuits and crisps often means eating excess calories with little nutritional value. Over 60% of people in the UK are overweight or obese, mainly due to the consumption of food which is high in sugar and fat and low in fibre – giving short, rather than sustained, bursts of energy.

Healthier snacking can keep energy levels in check and curb cravings. Opting for snacks that are made from whole foods like fresh veg, dried fruit, nuts and oats offer an abundance of nutrients and fibre too. As a bonus, whole food requires more energy to chew, swallow and process; burning more calories in the digestive process.

So what are the best options when it comes to snacking for health and satiety?

Go pro

Protein is a great way to protect yourself (and others!) from ‘hangry’ episodes. Compared to carbohydrate and fat, protein is the most efficient in reducing hunger. There is no need to go overboard either – a snack containing just 25% protein can increase satiety, which in turn helps to reduce energy intake and promote weight loss. Scientists believe that protein stimulates the release of anti hunger hormones, such as leptin. Opting for a tasty handful of nuts or seeds or adding a scoop of protein powder to your smoothie is a fabulous way to give your body a leptin boost. One study concluded that, compared to soy, whey protein produces a larger amount of anti hunger hormones. However, another study showed that pea protein was better at suppressing appetite than whey protein.

Nut or seed butters are a fab way of getting a quick protein hit. Try 2 – 3 teaspoons of natural peanut butter (or whichever you prefer) on celery, cucumber or carrot sticks with some freshly ground black pepper. For a sweet treat, smother it over a ripe banana and sprinkle with cacao nibs and seeds.

Add oats

Oat based snacks are a winner for staying fuller for longer. Oats are rich in a soluble fibre called beta glucan which, combined with water, forms a thick gel in the stomach – a bit like wallpaper paste. Not only does beta glucan slow down digestion, it also mops up extra cholesterol and toxins along the way, preventing them being absorbed by the body. In fact, eating oats are scientifically proven to help reduce bad LDL cholesterol. 

Drizzle 2-3 rough oatcakes with 1 tsp of honey and sprinkle of ground cinnamon or mixed spice for a hit of oaty goodness.

Get dark

Sometimes, only chocolate will do. To gain maximum health benefits and cut back on sugar, swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids). Researchers now believe that certain gut bacteria feast on cocoa, breaking it down into small components which have anti inflammatory properties and producing anti hunger hormones. A daily 10g portion of ‘high flavanol’ dark chocolate is scientifically proven to be beneficial for heart health.

Try our delicious 72% cocoa solids Raw Chocolate. Handmade and minimally processed using high grade, organic, raw cacao powder.

Savour it

Opting for savoury snacks instead of sweet ones are an ideal way to prevent blood sugar levels from crashing. Falafels are a great on-the-go snack as they contain protein rich chickpeas. If you’re not a fan of spice, try roasted chickpeas and broadbeans instead.

Off the shelf energy bars

Energy bars are a convenient pick me up. However, some can be loaded with added sugar that may make you feel like another one straight afterwards. Opt for energy bars which are sweetened with dates or other dried fruit. There are over 15 different minerals in dates, including selenium which is important for a healthy immune system.

Dates are high in fibre which slows down the release of sugar from these naturally sweet treats and helps to lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. A 30g portion of dried fruit like dates, apricots or prunes counts towards your ‘five a day’. All in all, dates are a good base for your balls!

Check out our divine Energy Truffles, made with organic, Fairtrade oats, organic dates and other uber healthy ingredients.

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Tea glorious tea. There is always an occasion to put the kettle on. When the occasion is to chill and have some alone time, why not treat yourself to something really special for mind, body and soul? Here are a few of my favourites which are worth a try and could give you the physical and mental restoration you need.

Camomile. A trusty faithful cup of calming camomile is well known for its stress reducing and sleep inducing properties. Now scientists believe it may help with postnatal depression. A study of 80 new mums suffering with poor sleep quality showed that those given chamomile tea to drink before bed for 2 weeks reported less depression and a reduction in physical symptoms related to sleep inefficiency.

Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) also known as redbush, is a herbal beverage and low in the bitter taste of tannins, which are found in black and green tea. Rooibos is caffeine free making it the ideal choice if you want to give your body a rest from stimulants. It is a perfect alternative to black tea and delicious served with a splash of milk.

China Rose. This delicious combination of black tea and rosebuds is soothing, restorative and packs a healthy punch. Black tea is rich in catechins, which can help to improve blood pressure by stimulating the circulatory system. Scientists have also found that drinking two to three cups of black tea a day reduces early signs of dementia by 50 per cent (compared to not drinking black tea). The rosebuds help to create a delicate, floral aroma and add a mild sweetness to the drink meaning there is no need to add sugar. Organic rosebuds are high in vitamin C which is essential for the immune system.

Vanilla. Usually blended with black tea or rooibus, vanilla adds a sweet, comforting dimension to your brew. Used for centuries as a home remedy for treating anxiety and depression, vanilla is an excellent spice to lift your mood. It contains a natural compound called vanillin, which gives it the distinct sweet toffee aroma and taste. By tracking markers of depression in mice, scientists report that vanillin has similar mood boosting effects to antidepressants.

Chai. Literally meaning ‘tea’ in India, chai contains a wonderfully warming combination of herbs and spices such as star anise, cardamon pods, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black peppercorns. All of the spices in chai have independently shown anti inflammatory properties and may offer some protection against certain cancers.

The perfect accompaniment to a brew is a couple of squares of raw chocolate! Check out these delicious bars which will compliment any of the teas above. My customers often comment how a small piece of Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is super satisfying.

Want to learn how to make Raw Chocolate? Come to one of two fab Make It Healthy Workshops this month!

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Spelt flour is high in fibre. Mix it with ground almonds, eggs and milk of your choice for a divinely fulfilling treat. I’m already thinking of breakfast tomorrow too!!

These are super easy (makes 4 medium sized delights)…

  • 50g spelt flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 ml milk (oat or almond milk work well)
  • Pinch Himalayan/sea salt
  • Coconut oil for frying

Method

  • Blitz all of the ingredients together in a blender, electric or hand whisk (madly) until it forms a batter.
  • Heat 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil in a frying pan until sizzling.
  • Add quarter of the mixture and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, using a spatula to lift the edges.
  • Once the pancake sets…toss! Cook the other side for another few minutes until golden brown.
  • Serve with your favourite topping – try honey/agave nectar, a squeeze of fresh lemon and some blueberries.

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Oxygen is our life force. The blood is vital for delivering oxygen to our cells and removing carbon dioxide, along with other toxic waste. Eating a poor diet, which is high in saturated fat, salt and sugar can have catastrophic effects on the body by causing a build up of fatty deposits in the inner lining of the arteries and narrowing them. This means that blood flows less efficiently around the body and we don’t get as much oxygen as we could.

The good news is, a nutrient rich diet can help keep our heart and circulation healthy and the oxygen flowing in abundance. Here are some fabulous additions to your diet which are scientifically proven to have a positive impact.

Extra virgin olive oil

There are two main reasons for eating this delicious tasting fat on a daily basis. Firstly, replacing saturated fat with plant based unsaturated fat decreases the chance of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol damaging the arteries. Secondly, olive oil is rich in polyphenols which helps reduce inflammation caused by free radicals.

Tea

This delightful beverage is well known for its health benefits. Tea contains a powerful group of polyphenols called catechins which have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. Drinking green tea may help to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol absorbed into the blood, thereby aiding weight loss.

Fruit and veggies

Eating around 800g (roughly 10 portions) of fruits and vegetables per day greatly reduces the risk of heart disease. Packed with nutrients, antioxidants and fibre, a diet full of fruit and vegetables can cut the chance of heart attack, stroke, cancers and premature death by up to a third. Research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology shows that apples, pears, citrus fruits, spinach, lettuce and chicory offer the greatest heart health benefits. Where possible, opt for whole, fresh fruit and veg as opposed to smoothies and juices. The Make It Healthy Raw Carrot Cake is packed with raw, organic carrots and dates, which are perfect fodder for increasing your 5-a-day! Come and grab a slice from our stall at Rode Hall Farmers Market in Cheshire on the first Saturday of every month.

Hydration

Water is vital for transporting nutrients and oxygen around the body and getting rid of waste products. Staying hydrated is a fantastic way to improve your performance as it helps to regulate body temperature and blood pressure. Not sure how much to drink? Although official advice on fluids is to drink 6-8 glasses per day, checking your thirst is the body’s best tool. Start by drinking one extra glass of water per day.

Inulin

Inulin is a prebiotic fibre found in certain plant based foods, such as chicory and artichokes. When digested, inulin is fermented by bacteria in the gut to produce short chain fatty acids – which are a very good thing! Short chain fatty acids help to clear fat from the liver, muscles and pancreas, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Clinical trials on humans also show that inulin can promote weight loss by increasing the anti-hunger hormone, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Inulin can be bought as a supplement.

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Adding a touch (or a heap) of spice to food is a great way to keep warm over the winter months and add an extra depth to recipes. Black pepper and chilli pepper are my favourite additions and have a range of health benefits too.

Black pepper contains piperine which can act as an anti inflammatory, improve digestion and boost nutrient absorption.

Chilli pepper contains the active ingredient capsaicin, which is linked with weight loss. This may be due to its ability to boost metabolism (so you burn more calories) or by stimulating more of the anti hunger hormone leptin after eating it. Scientists are still figuring this one out.

Why not try these quick and healthy vegan recipes to get a kick out of your food? International Spicy Food Day is on Tuesday 16th January. Make it a hot celebration!

Veggie chilli

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive/sunflower/coconut oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tinned cooked black/green/puy lentils
  • 410g tinned red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 150ml reduced salt vegetable stock (or bouillon powder)
  • 300g brown rice

Method

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Lightly fry until golden.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, spices, red pepper, mushrooms, kidney beans, lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Season with extra black pepper, more chilli pepper and a little Himalayan pink salt or sea salt and if needed.
  • Meanwhile cook the rice according to pack instructions. For fragrant rice, add 1 cinnamon stick, 4 whole pepper corns, 4 whole cloves, 2 crushed green cardamom pods and a bayleaf to the water at the beginning. Remove once the rice is cooked.

Raw Chocolate Chilli Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of walnuts
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • Pinch of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt

Method

  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend into a sticky dough. It may take 3-4 minutes for the ingredients to bind. Add a splash of water or maple syrup if more moisture is required.
  • Shape the dough into balls or place the mixture in a tray, pat down firmly and slice into bars.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes and store in an airtight container. They will last for 7 days. Suitable for freezing too!

I’ll be doing two Raw Chocolate Workshops over the next few months. Check events for more info! We will be back at Rode Hall Farmers Market on Saturday 3rd February too with Raw Chocolate goodies and other healthy, raw treats. 

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Hemp seeds are a rich source of plant based protein and contain a complete range of essential amino acids. Why is this important? If you’re vegan or avoiding dairy, hemp seeds can provide some of the vital protein that you need for growth and repair. Hemp seeds are also rich in Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) which is one of the Omega 3 fatty acids – good for brain and heart health.

This creamy hemp milk recipe is perfect for smoothies, cereal and porridge. Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 400ml cold water
  • 3-5 tablespoons of shelled (hulled) hemp seeds
  • 2 dates

Method

  1. Place the water into a blender followed by the other ingredients.
  2. Blend at high speed for 2-3 minutes until a milk is formed.
  3. Add a teaspoon of raw cacao powder or ground cinnamon for extra flavour.
  4. Serve immediately.

We will be back at Rode Hall Farmers Market on Saturday 3rd February with Raw Chocolate goodies and other healthy, raw treats. We have perfect gift ideas for Valentines Day too! 

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