The Finest Chefs

Archive - August 2014

Younger, Healthier and Happier Eating Raw Food

raw food benefits

What is a raw food diet?
You have probably heard about the Raw Food Diet. There are a lot of different variations on the Raw Food Diet depending upon the person advocating it.

The basic and common feature of most raw food diets is that they all advocate eating food in their natural state – that is, uncooked, unprocessed, organic and unexposed to herbicides and pesticides.

What does a raw food diet include?

  • All raw food diets include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Some include unprocessed nuts and uncooked grains.
  • Some raw food diets are a variation on veganism which shuns all animal-based food.
  • Other raw food diets include eggs, milk, cheese and raw fish (sushi and sashimi).
  • Then there is just the simple action of eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables to retain all their nutrients. One example of this is the juicing lifestyle, where fresh homemade juices are made from both vegetables and fruits are the mainstay of one’s daily intake.

Reasons To Fill Your Diet With Raw Food

Weight Loss

The main purpose of most people who shift to a raw food diet is for weight loss. It is true – eating raw food will facilitate weight loss because eating raw food will mean that you won’t consume as much fat and calories as with a regular diet.

Disease Prevention

Another main purpose of most people who shift to a raw food diet is to fight what is referred to as lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases include hypertension, coronary artery disease and diabetes. These lifestyle diseases are often caused by eating food that is too high on fat, sugar and cholesterol.

Chemical Free Eating

Some who go on a raw food diet do so because they want to avoid the accumulation of harmful chemicals in their bodies from food that is exposed to pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones.

Fruits and vegetables grown in commercial farms are usually treated with pesticides and herbicides to keep insects from feasting on the fruits and vegetables.

Livestock, pork and chicken grown commercially are treated with hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease and ensure optimal growth. Seedless fruit are sprayed with hormones as well.

Anti-Aging And Increasing Immunity

Still some people who opt for a raw food diet emphasize a healthy lifestyle that will keep them looking young.
They believe that fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains boost the immune system which keeps infectious diseases at bay and it improves the body’s circulation and systemic functioning which gives them clear skin and radiant hair.

Is It Easy To Maintain A Diet Of Raw Food?

As with all diets, you must consult your doctor to see if you may shift to a raw food diet. And if you do shift to a raw food diet, perhaps it is best to do it gradually.

Start with juicing an assortment of fruits and vegetables to replace colas and desserts. Replace your regular cooked meals gradually with a wide assortment of salads and grains and nuts.

The most difficult thing about going on a raw food diet is sourcing raw, unprocessed and chemical-free food.

If you like going out to eat, you will find it difficult to find restaurants that serve only raw food.

The next difficult thing is in preparing the food—it is time consuming. It is easy enough to simply peel a banana or eat an apple for a snack but if you have to subsist on fruits and veggies, you will have to carry fresh fruits and vegetables with you throughout the day.

Another problem most people encounter with the raw food diet is that food grown organically is more expensive.

Also there is a real danger of malnutrition as there are nutrients and minerals which you cannot get from uncooked fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You will have to take a vitamin or food supplement for this.

You will have to eat fruits and vegetables that are unfamiliar to you. The texture of uncooked food may be difficult to get used to at first.
For those who advocate eating raw fish, eggs, milk and milk products, you might need to conquer your gag reflex first. There is also a real danger of food poisoning from food that is unpasteurized such as milk and milk products, so one needs to take care, though these days it is not as problematic since the there are many quality controls in place.

Final Thoughts

Shifting to a raw food diet requires a lifestyle change as well as a change in mindset. It will not work for everyone and some people can follow a raw food diet but not strictly. Ask your physician first.

There are so many benefits to eating raw food and one thing to keep in mind is that it need not be exclusive of other food, you can simply add more fresh, and raw fruits and vegetables to your diet on a daily basis and cut out processed foods. That alone is a huge step to improving your health, preventing disease and curtailing the effects of aging.

Much Ado About Healthy Cooking

healthy cooking 101

If you’re trying to improve your health, one of the first things you can do is improve the way you cook your food. But when people talk about healthy cooking, it can sound a little intimidating and a little less than delicious.

But healthy cooking doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. With just a few small changes you can make a big difference in the health of you and your family. Once you get used to doing things a different way, it will become simple and easy.

Forgo Deep Frying

One of the easiest ways to lower the fat content of your food and boost your heart health is to skip frying foods. When you fry foods, you add a large amount of oil to your food. While fat is something that your body needs, it doesn’t need it in such high amounts.

Fat is full of extra calories, so the oil you’re adding to your food will sneak in many extra calories you don’t need if you’re working to eat healthy. In addition, most oils used for frying are not the healthiest kind for your heart.

Instead of deep frying your foods, there are a few different ways you can cook them. If you’ve never tried cooking with these methods, you’ll have to experiment to see which one works best for you.

Grilling

One of the healthiest ways to cook is to use your grill. There are several different types of grills. If you prefer to use outdoor grills, you can use charcoal or propane. Gas grilling is quicker, but doesn’t have the same flavor.

Grilling can also be done indoors. There are many indoor grill models available for purchase. Indoor grills won’t give you the smoky flavor that you get from outdoor grills. However, they help you to eliminate extra fat from cooking and allow you to cook foods quickly.

Baking and Broiling

Using your oven is another option. Old fashioned baking and broiling produces delicious food without having to add excess fat. Baking is the process of cooking your food evenly. When you broil food, you use only the top element of your oven.

With baking you get a constant temperature in the oven and your oven will cut off and on to keep that steady temperature. With broiling, the top element will stay on constantly. This can produce the same type of effect as grilling your food.

Broiling works well for cooking steaks and other types of meat. You’ll have to turn the pieces of meat over in order to get consistent cooking on both sides. You’ll also need a broiler pan that allows fat to drip through to the bottom away from your food.

Pan Frying

You can sauté your food in a pan as well. This is a type of frying, but you don’t need as much oil as you do with deep frying. For this type of frying you can usually use one or two tablespoons of oil as opposed to a quart of it.

You can also use the most heart healthy oils with pan frying. You’ll want to use oils that are monounsaturated. These oils actually help you to lower your cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil is generally the best choice for heart health.

Steaming

Steaming is another powerful way to cook. This is especially good for cooking vegetables. You can purchase a special steamer that plugs into the wall or you can actually convert a pan into a steamer by inserting a special steaming basket.

With steaming, you’ll add a little water to the pan, then add the steaming basket. You’ll place your veggies on top of the basket. The water won’t actually cover the vegetables at all. You’ll then need to put a lid on the pot.

As you heat the water at the bottom of the pan, it creates steam that will surround the food and cook it. Steaming doesn’t take a long time and it’s one of the best ways you can cook to preserve the nutrients in your food.

Slow Cooker

One of the greatest tools you can purchase for your kitchen is a slow cooker. This is a healthy way to cook and can really be a timesaver in your life. With slow cookers you can add ingredients to the pot, set the temperature, and then walk away for hours.

This is especially helpful if you have a job outside of your home or just a very busy schedule. You can put healthy foods in to cook but then you can continue with your activities knowing that you’ll have a great meal for dinner.

The biggest complaint people have about slow cookers tends to be the cleanup. However, there are liners now you can place inside your slow cooker that make cleaning it much easier. You simply throw them away when you’re done.

Choosing Healthy Fats and Substitutions

Many times when people begin to work to cook and eat healthy foods, they try to eliminate fats from their diet. However, your body needs fats in order to function properly. You’ll need to understand the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats.
Unhealthy fats are those that are saturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. You find these fats in meats and dairy products. You also find them in lard. These are the fats that can clog your arteries and cause you to have heart problems.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. They’re healthier for the body and actually contribute to good heart health – especially monounsaturated fats. These fats come from plant sources. Some foods where you can find healthy fats include:

• Olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil
• Flaxseed oil (can be added to food, but not used to cook)
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.

When you’re cooking, you’ll want to use these types of fats as much as possible. Adding nuts or avocado to a dish can boost the heart healthy fats. And they also add delicious flavor and boost the excitement of healthy meals.

When you’re baking, you can also make substitutions for fats. For example, if a cake or brownie recipe calls for oil you can substitute applesauce or carrot puree. These will give the same texture and moisture without the fat.

If you’re not ready to go completely away from the oil, try substituting half of the oil for applesauce. This will give you the best of both worlds. In many recipes, the oil can be cut in half without significantly changing the texture. You may want to experiment with our favorite recipes.

Eliminate Excess Sugars

Sugars are another area where people tend to have too much of a good thing. You need to have sugars in order for your brain to work. But the types of sugar that you eat can make a difference. Eliminating processed sugars can boost your healthy cooking.
Ingredients such as white granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar can be tasty, but aren’t great choices for cooking healthy foods. Instead, you can try to have sweetness through more natural ingredients.

Honey and molasses are natural sources of sugar. Raw cane sugar is also a natural source of sugar. While these choices are natural and less processed than other types of sugar, you’ll still want to use them in limited quantities. A little goes a long way.

Even better is to get your sources of sweetness from fruits. They naturally contain sugar that can satisfy your sweet tooth while still delivering nutrients to your body. The sugar you get from strawberries, apples, or grapes provides satisfying sweetness and also delivers fiber and vitamins.

In addition to getting sugar from sweet foods, many people get a lot of sugar from the drinks they consume. Sugary sodas, sweet teas, and juices can give you a lot of calories without giving much in the way of nutrition. This is a great place to start eliminating sugars from your life.

Switch to water with lime or herbal teas that are flavored naturally. If you want to add sweetness, try a natural sweetener such as stevia to add that punch. Other calorie free sweeteners can be less healthy.

There are many dessert options using fruits and other healthy ingredients that can help you to get the sweetness you crave without sacrificing your health. As you eliminate sugar, you’ll get to a point where you really don’t crave it as much.

Lowering Your Sodium

Another considering with healthy cooking is lowering the amount of sodium, or salt, in your diet. Salt can cause problems with high blood pressure and bloating. While you need some salt in your diet for good health, most people get too much.

When shopping for ingredients, look for items labeled as “low sodium” or “sodium free.” This way you can control how much salt you add to your meals. When you do use salt, choose natural sea salt.

Add Flavor

For many people the idea of healthy cooking is synonymous with bland food. But if you’re going to cook healthy it’s critical that you enjoy what you’re eating. Otherwise you won’t be able to adopt these techniques long-term.

It’s important to make sure that while you’re eliminating unhealthy fats and sugars that you don’t forget to add flavor. Natural spices and herbs can be the best way to enhance the flavor of your food and can boost your health, too.

If you haven’t used many spices before, now is the time to add spice to your life. The following spices are critical to have in your pantry as you make the switch to healthy cooking:

• Cinnamon
• Garlic
• Pepper (black, red, white, cayenne)
• Nutmeg
• Paprika
• Salt-free seasoning
• Italian seasoning
• Basil

As you continue to cook, you’ll add more and more spices to your supply. But these are general spices that can get you started. You’ll also want to consider keeping fresh herbs on hand. Growing your own is the least expensive way to enjoy them.

As the season begins to end, you can chop up your herbs and freeze them in ice cube trays. This way you can continue to enjoy them year round. Some great herbs to get started with include the following:

• Parley
• Oregano
• Thyme
• Sage
• Cilantro
• Basil
• Rosemary

Adding fresh spices will make any dish more flavorful. Remember that healthy cooking doesn’t have to be boring and bland. The more flavor you add, the more you’ll enjoy what you’re eating. If you enjoy the food you eat when cooking healthy, you’ll be more likely to make a long-term change.

If you’re not familiar with cooking healthy, it can take some time to adjust. But as you add a new technique you’ll find that it can be easy and rewarding. As you cook more and more, you’ll begin to feel comfortable with experimenting with recipes – and unleashing your inner chef can also be a lot of fun.

Roasted Peanut Butter Cookies (Lite Version Without Losing Taste and Texture)

Peanut-Butter-Cookies

The smell of roasted peanut always conjures up a time in the past when I was just a child munching away my favourite childhood treat, roasted peanut butter cookies. You can never stop at 1 piece. The crunchy peanut and the buttery taste that is sweet and aromatic in every single bite.

Roasted Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Prepare Time: 25 mins plus chilling
  • Cook Time: 10-12 mins
  • Makes 20 Cookies
Ingredients
  • 50g/2oz soft butter
  • 50g/2oz light muscovado sugar*
  • 25g/1oz golden caster sugar
  • 100g/4oz chunky peanut butter with no sugar
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus 2 tsp
  • 1 medium size egg, beaten
  •  1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g/50z plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g/1oz oven roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the butter, both the sugars and peanut butter with a wooden spoon until light and well blended. Beat in all the oil, then the egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir this into the mixture, half at a time, along with the peanuts, to make a soft dough into a log shape, wrap in a baking parchment and chill for 30 mins.
  4. Slice the dough into 20 even sized pieces between your hands into small balls.
  5. On your work surface, flatten each one with your fingers into a 6cm/ 2 1/2in circle, smoothing the tops and neatening the edges. Place them 2.5cm/1in apart in the lined baking sheet (bake in batches if necessary). Press them gently with the back of a fork to make pattern of lines.
  6. Bake for 10-12 mins or until pale golden.
  7. Transfer to  wire rack to cool.
Nutritional Facts Per Cookie
  • 106 kcals, protein 3g, carbs 10g, fat 6g, sat fat 2g, fibre 1g, sugar 4g, salt o.2g

* Muscovado is a type of unrefined sugar obtained naturally when sugar cane juice is dehydrated. Its distinctive color and flavor come from the sugar cane juice and the extraction process it undergoes. Muscovado sugar is available in either light or dark varieties; it has a coarse texture and is most commonly used in baking.

 

 

 

 

 

Power Food For Power Workouts

fitness

Anyone committed to a workout regimen knows a sound nutritional diet is just as important for maintaining the optimal energy for power workouts.

Food Before Workouts

Goals: Retain Lean Muscle Mass and Energy
What To Eat: Complex carbs and a lean protein

Why?

Working out on an empty stomach can cause muscle loss because when you are hungry the body will go into starvation mode and therefore draw protein for energy from the muscles, instead of from the kidneys and liver where it is supposed to get it from.

This results in the loss of lean muscle mass, and this means a slower metabolism. Also, power workouts require a lot of energy, and when you don’t fuel your body with the proper sources, you will not have the energy to complete an intense workout.

In fact, if you’re on a serious workout regimen and want to make the most of your diet to produce results, forego meals high in fat and low in protein. These are not conducive to a power diet for power workout regimens and in fact will only weigh you down.

Food After Workouts

Goals: Restore Energy, Recovery and Repair

What To Eat: Protein with small portion of complex carbs

Why?

When you workout the body uses Glycogen in the muscle for energy. This depletion needs to be restored post workout and demands that you do so a soon as possible after exercise. In fact, various research has shown that the refill of muscle store is decreased by 50% when one waits two hours or more to eat following a workout.
A combination of protein and complex carbohydrates is required to restore energy, support high metabolism, and for muscle repair and recovery.

Power Food Options

The following are some great foods nourish the body with the right fuel it needs to retain energy, build lean muscle mass, burn fat and calories and build lean muscle mass.

PEANUTS

First, take the peanut. Many people consider peanuts “snack” food, and they perhaps should because of their high protein content, but the health benefits go beyond that of healthy snacking, especially for those who are workout enthusiasts.
The peanut is a protein packed dynamo product rich in monounsaturated fats, which are proven heart-healthy and therefore reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease when combined with a heart healthy workout regimen. When choosing peanut butter make sure it’s 100% pure without added sugar.

WHOLE GRAINS

Any powerhouse workout deserves whole grains for carbohydrates that replace the energy expended during a vigorous workout routine. Grains are packed with antioxidants, including, those that are not found in fruit and vegetables, and they also have loads of iron, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium.

You may hear the word “antioxidants” but have you ever considered what all the hype is really about?
Antioxidants strengthen your ability to fight infection and disease. The word is tossed around more than a football but when you stop to think of the free radicals that are everywhere in a world that is hardly germ free, a food source rich in antioxidants is worth growing a fond taste for.

Fortunately, whole grains cover an array of foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, couscous, even popcorn.
QUINOA

The nutrient composition of Quinoa earns the title of a “super food”. It is a complete protein, that’s loaded with essential amino acids. It is also higher in protein than barley, brown rice and other whole grains. It also contains valuable amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

SEEDS

Since we’ve discussed peanuts and grains, naturally seeds must follow. Seeds, much like the aforementioned, are nature’s gift to those who indulge in a regular workout schedule. Perhaps considered more of a “snack” than a food entrée or even side dish, seeds should certainly become a part of anyone’s diet who likes to workout hard and long. Seeds are packed with essential vitamins and minerals to safeguard your body to help regulate the circulatory system and help to maintain strong bones and teeth and bowel regulation.

FRUIT

Next up, is fruit, and it’s no small wonder that fruit it is on the list of “powerhouse foods” for powerhouse workouts. From the time our lives begin, we’ve been reminded that fruit is “good for you.” And if you’ve never heard the word “phytochemicals” that is a word synonymous with antioxidants and fruit, which aid the body’s immune system.
Fruit is a phytochemical rich in so many important vitamins and minerals that the body needs to remain healthy such as calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B, C and D.

DARK CHOCOLATE

The next powerhouse food for the body to maintain a powerhouse workout regime, dark chocolate. Yes, rejoice, chocolate, but only dark chocolate is the one that is loaded with most of the health benefits referred to as flavonoids or flavonols, the main type found in cocoa, which, again, is considered a powerful antioxidant believed to help the body repair cells, aid in pulmonary and cardiovascular health while “fighting” free radicals, considered internal body pollutants.

Therefore, if you are maintaining a regular workout regimen, you can get your chocolate fix without the guilt.
Muscle Recovery

Another speculation regarding the above list of “powerhouse” foods is that they are plant based. Plant based foods help to fight inflammation caused from workout-over exertion, helping muscle recovery and to heal soreness.

Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

• Banana with peanut butter
• Black beans and brown rice
• Almonds and apple slices
• Grape Nuts cereal with skim milk and berries
• Hummus on whole grain toast

Post Workout Meal Ideas
• Protein energy bars
• Protein shakes with bananas, berries and hemp seeds
• Chicken breast with steamed vegetables or salad with olive oil and vinegar
• Tofu and steamed vegetables
• Quinoa with vegetables or with berries
• Pecans and fresh berries
• Whole grain or multi-grain toast with peanut butter
• Black beans and avocado

IN SUMMARY

The above information may be surprising but five of the most nutritious food sources, without the inclusion of meat in any way shape or form, are arguably the best for those who need powerhouse food to maintain a heavy workout regimen.
Again, peanuts, grains, fruits, seeds, and perhaps best of all raw dark chocolate all have something in common. They’re good for your heart, rich in complex carbohydrates, the bodies preferred natural fuel source, and loaded with antioxidants, too.

It would probably be a wise choice to include the above the next time you head out to shop for food that will help you keep your workout strong, along with a diet to match the rigor.

Planning Meals for Easy Healthy Cooking

healthy cooking

Healthy cooking is essential for your well being, but, when you are just coming back from work, exhausted, this is the last thing on your mind. If you feel like cooking is too time consuming for your busy schedule, you may feel like eating healthy is out of your league.

Another impediment that may prevent you from cooking healthy meals can be the lack of ingredients. If this happens often, you may have to so some planning ahead.

Cooking should not be a chore. There is no need to stress so much over it; if you focus on making good nutritious food for you and your family, you will see that it is not so difficult, after all.

Your health is very important, so you should not overlook healthy cooking altogether. All you need to do is to plan ahead, so you can have delicious and nutritious meals throughout the week.

A little bit of planning will take you a long way. First of all, you will not have to work as hard to cook. Secondly, you will be able to do a great service to your health, since you will have plenty of nutritious food to keep you going. Here are some great tips on how to plan your meals, without too much effort.

Stock your pantry. The first rule to planning ahead for healthy meals is to have plenty of healthy ingredients at your fingertips, foods that can be eaten as they are, or that can be cooked with minimum time and effort. Eggs, plenty of vegetables and fruits, spices and herbs, are all essential ingredients that are good to have around. When you feel the need for a snack, you just grab a fruit and you will be much healthier than if you were to eat fast food or snacks loaded with sugar and salt.

Stock your freezer. Some foods cannot be kept in the pantry, but they are stored well in the freezer. You can put veggies like carrots and broccoli in the freezer and use them as you need them. You can also freeze fruits to use them as desserts. The great thing about frozen foods is that you can store them for months without them getting spoiled.

Freeze large quantities of cooked food. During weekends, when you have more time at hand, cook your food in some larger pots, and what you do not eat, put in the freezer for later use. Stews, soups, and other foods resist well in the freezer, and you can consume them at a later date, when you do not have time to cook. This way, you will ensure plenty of healthy meals throughout the week, without the extra effort.

For instance, you can make a larger quantity of tomato sauce that you can use as base for many dishes. After the sauce is made, lower its temperature by placing the pot in an ice bath, then move it to plastic bags and stash them in the freezer. Another idea is to make fruit sorbet and stock in the freezer in the same manner. Whenever you want to eat something healthy and delicious, you will only need to take a bag out of the freezer and use it. Remember to label all the bags; although frozen foods can last for a long time, they may go through a process called freezer burn, when they are kept there for a lot of time.

Great ideas for quick snacks. Healthy foods do not always require a lot of energy to cook. For instance, you can take some veggies and combine them with a bit of mustard or yogurt, for some tasty snacks. Making more rice at one time is a good idea, too, because rice stores well. Hard boiled eggs can be consumed within one week, if they are kept in the refrigerator. Leftovers from fried chicken can be used for other meals, as well.

Just remember! You do not need to tire yourself over cooking every day of the week. All you need to do is to plan ahead and cook only when the time allows it. This way, you will enjoy plenty of healthy nutritious meals.