Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given natural remedies when necessary. Certified organic food is produced without using conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, without genetic engineering or irradiation.
Why should you eat organic food?
- is safe
- tastes the way food should taste naturally – which is delicious!
- doesn’t contain synthetic chemicals
- is GE free
- helps the environment
How do I know what I am eating is certified organic?
There are four certifying bodies in New Zealand: Bio-Gro NZ and Agriqual Organic (which are recognised internationally), Demeter (the bio-dynamic standard) and a local certifying scheme, OFNZ. Properties wishing to be certified are regularly checked, the soil analysed and property owner given a certification number.
What is Gluten Free?
Gluten-free diets seem to be the latest fad which claim to cure everything from eczema to obesity to heart disease. But what is gluten and why has it earned such a bad reputation? Gluten is a protein found in wheat and in lesser amounts in some other grains such as barley, spelt and rye. Gluten provides the ‘glue’ in baked preparations that gives them stretch and helps them rise. The higher the gluten content the more fluffy and elastic the end product.
Unfortunately gluten does not sit well with everybody. People with Coeliac Disease have an abnormal immune reaction to a gluten protein called Gliaden. This causes an inflammatory reaction which affects absorption of nutrients, and causes many symptoms including diarrhea, fatigue, and failure to thrive. People diagnosed with Coeliac Disease have to follow a very strict gluten free diet. Some people may not test positive for Coeliac Disease (this test can be done by your GP), but may find they do not produce sufficient enzymes to digest gluten, and may suffer from symptoms such as bloating, fatigue or eczema when they eat it. These people also benefit from cutting out gluten from their diet, but don’t always need to be as strict as those with Coeliac Disease.
Others simply find that eating more traditional strains of wheat that are lower in gluten, or slowly prepared products that have had time to break down the gluten (such as sourdough or essene bread) is easier for them to digest. If you do not fall into any of these categories, switching your loaf of white bread for a loaf of white rice bread will probably do little for your health or waistline, but everyone can benefit from swapping refined white flours for a greater variety of whole grains—especially if they are organic!
If you need to avoid gluten, there are now many palatable options available to you. Just about anything you can think of, from breads to pastries, baking and even pasta are available gluten free. Of course removing the gluten removes the lovely fluffiness and stretch of products made with wheat flour, but fortunately the gluten free alternatives are getting better all the time. Come in store and check out our extensive range of gluten-free products, especially our favourites such as Thoroughbread (makes great sandwiches), CuisAnn pies, pastries and baking and Orgran mixes for making your own breads, cakes and biscuits. We also have many gluten-free grains, flakes and flours; come chat to our staff about how to use them. And don’t forget to check the labels of any products you are buying as gluten can be found in anything from baking to chocolate to dishwash liquid!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT…
At Organic Living, we are proud to stock alternative grains, some of which may be new to you. Our staff are happy to let you know the best way to use these grains.
Here’s some nutritional information about these powerful wholegrains.
Amaranth has a delicious nutty flavour, contains more protein, lysine, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium than other grains. It is also a rich source of vitamin C and beta carotene.
Barley is rich in protein, niacin, folic acid, thiamine, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, copper, zinc and phosphorus.
Buckwheat is a pulse and is no relation to wheat. It is rich in high-quality protein, vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium & iron, it has fewer calories than wheat, corn or rice and is gluten free.
Kamut or Khorasan wheat is an ancient type of wheat twice the size of modern day wheat with a nutty, buttery flavour and adding a smooth texture to baking. The name Khorasan comes from a region in what is now Afghanistan and Iran where the wheat was originally grown. Kamut is a name patented in America in 1990. It has become popular in the west recently as it is a good source of iron, phosphorous and fibre, and, as its protein differs from wheat gluten, many people who can’t tolerate wheat find they can tolerate Kamut, although it is not gluten free. Kamut contains 40 percent more protein and 65 percent more amino acids than wheat.
You may be familiar with millet as a birdseed, but millet has been used since prehistoric times as a nutritious and tasty grain. It is usually grown in semi-arid areas of Asia and Africa where it’s drought tolerance has made it a popular crop for human and cattle consumption. It is still consumed by 1/3 of the worlds population, and is the 6th most widely consumed grain on the planet. It has traditionally been made into a flat bread or into a porridge, and even into beer!
Millet is a gluten-free grain, and is a great source of B vitamins (especially Niacin, B6 & Folic Acid), calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. It contains high levels of a number of amino acids, especially methionine and cysteine. It has a greater amount of protein than most gluten-free grains, and is a good source of fibre. It has a lovely buttery taste and is a very versatile grain being useful in both sweet and savoury dishes. To cook, rinse the grains well and cook one part of millet to 2.5 parts water or stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes, or 15 minutes covered. It should have a texture like fluffy rice at this stage, and can be used in any rice recipe or as a gluten-free couscous or bulgur wheat replacement. To give the millet a nuttier flavour, you can dry roast it before cooking.
To give it a creamier texture, stir it more often while simmering. Like this it can be used as traditional millet porridge, or for a quicker version use millet flakes. These flakes make a great gluten-free alternative to rolled oats, and cook in the same amount of time. As such they can also be used for making muesli— try in our muesli recipe previously published in our April 2012 newsletter. Or, using the same ingredients, soak overnight to make a bircher muesli. To make into muesli bars try this easy recipe!
Millet flour can be used in breads and baking; substitute a small amount of flour in any baking with millet flour for a nuttier flavour and texture. Or try making traditional flatbread using one of the many recipes available online, such as this one. As millet grains are small, millet flour can be quite coarse. If you require a fine millet flour, try grinding millet flakes to a fine powder in a food processor.
Oats (Avena Sativa) contain more soluble fibre than any other grain. This has a number of benefits. As well as help keeping you regular, the soluble fibre it contains called beta glucan is proven to help lower LDL (the ‘bad’ type of) cholesterol, making it great for heart health. This fibre also slows digestion of the grain, which keeps you fuller for longer and means it has a low impact on blood sugar levels. Oats are also a good source of protein (which also helps keep you fuller for longer), B vitamins, and manganese. They also contain magnesium, tryptophan and melatonin, which all help sleep. Have a bowlful with milk (also containing tryptophan) and bananas (with magnesium and potassium for muscle relaxing) before bed as a sleep aid!
Oats themselves are wheat and gluten-free, however regular oats are often cross contaminated with wheat, making them unsuitable for people who are sensitive to wheat or gluten. Fortunately there are now oats available that are grown in strictly wheat-free conditions and tested for their gluten levels (it must be noted that a small minority of people with gluten sensitivity may also have a sensitivity to the protein Avenin founds in oats).
Oats come in a number of different forms. The hulled groats are heated to prevent them becoming rancid and to improve their flavour, then separated into whole oats and steel-cut oats. These oats can then be steamed and rolled into jumbo rolled oats or instant rolled oats respectively. Or they can be ground down and separated into oatbran and oat flour. Oats need to be soaked (such as in bircher muesli) or cooked (eg toasted muesli or porridge) to make them digestible. Jumbo oats need to be soaked overnight before cooking to reduce cooking time. Oat flour can be used in breads and baking (such as in Margaret’s oatcake recipe in our August 2013 newsletter). Oat milk also makes a delicious dairy-free milk alternative.
For more information see:
Polenta (cornmeal) boosts the body’s natural healing capacity. It contains vitamins B1, B3 as well as magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, complex, fibre and protein.
Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all amino acids. Is gluten free and lower in carbs than other grains. Healthy source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin E and lysine.
Rye contains 12 percent protein. It also contains calcium, magnesium, lysine and potassium.
Sorghum grain was first cultivated in Africa, where it spread through the Middle East and Asia via the Silk Road. It is still commonly used in Africa and India, and is the 5th most important grain in the world. It has traditionally been used to make pancakes, porridges and even beer, and is most well known in India for its use in a flatbread called Jowar Roti. Whole sorghum flour is gluten-free, and a good source of protein, fibre and iron. Its mild taste and smooth texture when cooked makes it a great addition to gluten-free breads and baking, as it is less ‘biscuity’ than some gluten-free flours.
Spelt is a member of the wheat family that can be tolerated by those allergic to wheat, it is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Is a tad easier to digest than most grains, a good source of complex carbs and contains more balanced amino acids, good fats and fibre than wheat.
Teff is a tiny powerhouse of a grain grown in North Africa. In Ethiopia, it is a staple food, most commonly used in a pancake made from the flour called Injera. This grain is gluten free, and is a good source of fibre, calcium, iron and protein. It has a light nutty flavour making it a great addition to gluten-free baking, or try it in the gluten-free ‘Ranga’ fruit loaf from Flaveur.
Eaten since 2,000 B.C., beetroots have many health-giving properties. The roots themselves are most commonly consumed, and are good sources of manganese, folate and beatines, which may help reduce homocysteine, thought to contribute to heart disease and stroke. Betaines may also help protect against liver disease, and beetroot juice is often used to support the liver while detoxing. The nitrate found in beetroot appears to increase blood flow, requiring less oxygen uptake, which has been found to improve endurance and performance in athletic performance, and may also help reduce blood pressure. Click here for a video on recent research.
The leaves of the beetroot are even more nutritious. They contain magnesium, manganese, copper, calcium, and vitamins A, B6, C, and K. Recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found beet leaves came third in a test of nutrient density of 47 ‘powerhouse’ fruits and vegetables. The leaves can be used just like silverbeet or spinach. Keep an eye out for them in store!
The beetroot itself is beautiful roasted, steamed and cubed in salads (or thinly sliced as the essential kiwi burger ingredient), or made into soups such as the Eastern European dish Borscht. It is also lovely raw, such as in the very tasty salad recipe on page two of this newsletter —perfect if you are wanting to introduce more raw vegetables into your diet, and a great in-between season dish. Beetroot is also very popular as a juice. You can blend it with carrot, apple and a little fresh ginger, or juice it with a little apple. We also sell Beet-It organic beetroot juice in store, as well as high nitrate sports shots and beetroot sports bars. Another less commonly known use for beetroot is for a ‘bowel transit time’ test. Many people have eaten beetroot and then thought they were dying, judging by the contents of their toilet bowl. However this is simply the result of the colour compound betanin which is hard for the body to digest. A way to use this to your advantage is to eat a good amount of beetroot in a meal, and then note how quickly this colour change is noted. A 12-24 hour transit time is considered healthy, longer than this and your diet may need some attention to get things moving!
More and more research is coming out showing the health benefits of these yummy berries. Recent research conducted by Plant & Food Research in conjunction with the University of Northumbria has found that compounds found in blackcurrants increase brain function in areas such as accuracy, attention and mood. The juice from the ‘Blackadder’ cultivar in particular may also impact on chemicals in the brain that are the focus of treatments for mood disorders and Parkinson’s’ disease.
Natural phytochemicals in blackcurrants have also been shown to reduce inflammation associated with some types of asthma. Early research indicates blackcurrants possess anti-inflammatory properties, enhance immunity, and modulate oxidative stress when taken before and after exercise, making it excellent for sports recovery. Blackcurrants are also powerful antioxidants. They contain high levels of Vitamin C and the antioxidant anthocyanin (this gives the berries their deep purple colour). Blackcurrants have significantly higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) values compared to other berries, and New Zealand-grown blackcurrants have higher levels still. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation that can cause free radicals, which may contribute to age-related diseases. Anthocyanins are also useful for eye health, and helpful in reducing age-related eye disease. They have also been found to be good for digestive health, by increasing good bacteria populations and decreasing bad bacteria in the gut. For more information click here.
And there are so many tasty ways to incorporate blackcurrants into your diet! ViBeri produces New Zealand-grown organic blackcurrants in many forms such as freeze-dried, soft-dried, frozen and—our favourite– dark chocolate rolled, from $8.95. These can be eaten as is, or added to baking as in the recipe below, added to smoothies, salads, scroggin, or your morning cereal. Powders incorporating blackcurrants such as Ceres Antioxidant boost, or Absolute Blackcurrant, Blackberry, Blueberry powder can be added to smoothies, chocolate or cereals. Or for a super-strong hit try Lifestream’s Blackcurrant capsules.
If you watched Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty, you may have seen that one of the ingredients mentioned was Black Seed oil—called ‘the cure to everything, except death”. Black seed is not a well known ingredient in New Zealand, but has been used for centuries in the Middle East and South East Asia to treat many conditions.
Black Seed (Nigella Sativa) is also known as black cumin and Kalonji. As well as being used to flavour curries, vegetables and breads, it has traditionally been used medicinally for headaches, toothaches, digestive and respiratory health, immunity, parasites, as well as applied externally for various skin complaints. And research is beginning to show the reason this tiny seed has earned such a big reputation. Black Seed contains Thymoquinone which can help reduce asthma and allergies, and is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It also contains Thymohydroquinone, which in its synthetic form is used to treat a number of conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Autism. Black Seed also contains Thymol which is a powerful antibacterial. Early research has found it may be helpful in treating Diabetes, H. Pylori stomach infections, epilepsy, high blood pressure, asthma, tonsillitis and even the antibiotic-resistant infection MRSA. It is great used both internally and externally, being useful as a treatment for hair loss and skin conditions such as eczema, and for rubbing onto joints to ease rheumatism.
And it is easy to take! You can take the oil daily, or you can incorporate the seeds into your diet . Black Seeds taste a bit like a combination of onions, black pepper and oregano, making them very easy to add to your diet. You can add them to any Indian dish such as the below relish (this spicy relish can be served as a side dish with any indian meal, added to any savoury dish to add flavour, or even served with meats or on fresh bread). Or you can add some black seeds to any spice or herb combination, such as into an Italian tomato-based dish, a Mexican chilli, a stir-fry or in a rub or marinade for meat. Or sprinkle the seeds on bread before baking.
See here for further information and contraindications.
Everyone is familiar with cocoa, the main ingredient in New Zealand’s favourite sweet treat, chocolate. Cocoa has long been known for it’s feel good benefits due to alkaloids theobromine, phenelthylamine and caffeine, which are linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Chocolate has also been linked to heart health and is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But you may also have heard of the similarly named cacao and have been wondering—what is cacao and how is it different from cocoa?
The word cacao is based on the original name for the cocoa bean used by the Olmec people of Mesoamerica, where cocoa beans were highly prized and even used as currency. It is still the name given to cocoa in many languages today. However in English, cacao is generally used to refer to products made from the raw cocoa bean. When cocoa is made, the beans are fermented and dehydrated, then roasted to remove bitterness and deepen the flavour. The bean is then opened up and the cocoa crushed into nibs, which are further separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. However, roasting the beans at high temperatures also destroys some of the enzymes and nutritional benefits of raw bean.
As a result of the popularity of the raw food movement, raw cacao that has been fermented and dehydrated but not roasted has become a sought after treat both for it’s health giving properties and its raw status making it essential for many raw dessert recipes. And, despite not being roasted, it has a beautiful flavour due to the high quality organic beans used, as anyone who has tried raw chocolate can attest to! Just make sure the cacao you buy states it is both raw and organic for the best quality.
Cacao can be purchased in powder, butter or nibs. The powder can be used in any recipe calling for cocoa powder, but it is most beneficial in raw recipes such as smoothies, raw desserts such as Aunty Michele’s Chocolate Mousse or instead of carob in Peta’s Fabulous Fudge, or in the easy chocolate recipe below. Cacao butter can be used anywhere butter or coconut oil are used, again especially in raw recipes, or use it as the ultimate skin and hair moisturiser. Cacao nibs make a great crunchy addition to mueslis and baking, or added to scroggin. Or try our raw products in store that contain cacao such as Little Bird’s Cacao and Raspberry Macaroons, Lifefood’s Superfood Smoothie mix, Matakana’s Coconut Chocolate Spread, or Loving Earth’s truly divine range of raw chocolates and chocolate products.
Chia seeds are from the plant salvia hispanica, related to the mint plant. Native to Central America, it has been used for centuries as a source of energy. This is because chia has some amazing qualities for such a small seed.
They are made up of 40% fibre, 20% protein and nearly 20% omega three essential fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for healthy skin and hair, for immune function, lowering cholesterol levels and for good brain function.
The soluble fibre in chia seeds forms a gel between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes, slowing carbohydrate conversion to sugar. This provides slowly released sustained energy, making it an ideal food for diabetics, endurance athletes and those trying to maintain their weight. The soluble fibre also cleans and soothes the colon and absorb toxins. The protein content also helps you feel fuller for longer than other grains. Studies have shown it can reduce blood pressure, and can help redistribute fat that can accumulate in the heart and liver. It is also high in antioxidants.
And it’s easy to use! You can simply sprinkle a tablespoon on your cereal to get 2000 mg of Omega 3, 5g fibre and 2g protein. It has a mild nutty taste. Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons in a glass of water and leave for 10 minutes to form a gel, then drink for a detoxifying drink. Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and your own sweetener turns this into a traditional Mexican tonic known as ‘chia fresca’.
Make a thicker gel from 1 part chia seeds to 8 parts water. Leave in the fridge (stirring after a few minutes), preferably overnight. This gel can be added to smoothies, mixed through cereal, or blended with fresh fruit and lasts for up to three weeks in the fridge. The gel can also be used to replace half the water, and up to 25% of oil or eggs in baking. Or you can sprinkle the seeds directly into your baking or cooking. For further information, see:
Coconut oil is oil extracted from the meat of the matured coconut from the coconut palm (cocos nucifera). Due to its high saturated fat content it is a very stable oil and ideal for frying and cooking at high temperatures. It makes a great butter substitute for baking and pastries. Raw virgin (cold pressed) coconut oil is also very delicious!
It has been used for generations by many people in tropical countries, often being their primary source of saturated fat. Over the years users have found it to have some remarkable health giving properties.
Despite being a saturated fat, coconut oil may in fact help reduce some common western health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. This is because the saturated fats contained in coconut oil are predominantly medium chain tryglerides (MCT). MCTs support thyroid function, help increase energy expenditure by being converted by the liver into energy rather than fat, and improving insulin production and sensitivity, helping relieve the symptoms of diabetes and may possess anti-cancer properties by stimulating the production of white cells and inhibiting tumour growth.
Coconut oil also contains lauric acid which may have a more favourable effect on total LDL (‘bad’) /HDL (‘good’) cholesterol than any other fatty acid. Therefore, although, total cholesterol levels may increase from consumption of coconut oil, as the ratio of LDL to HDL is improved it in fact reduces the risk of heart disease. Lauric acid is also converted by the body into monolaurin which has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, which may make it useful in the treatment of candida, herpes, giardia, listeria and helicobacter pylori, even the flu. It may also be a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
There is still more research needed to be done about the health-giving properties of coconut oil, and the benefits or harm of saturated fats is still disputed. However, even conservative estimates recommend up to 10% of our daily calories come from saturated fat, allowing for a couple of tablespoons a day for the average woman. For further information, see:
Many people today are diagnosed with high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a type of fat essential for our cell structure. However high levels of cholesterol in certain types of lipoproteins (protein particles used to transport cholesterol in our blood plasma) has been associated with an increased risk in artherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. There are a number of treatments available to help lower cholesterol levels, but more and more research is coming out on the benefits of certain foods for reducing levels.
Oats contain soluble fibre which reduces your LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels—the ‘bad’ lipoprotein measured when you have your cholesterol levels tested. Soluble fibre reduces the level of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Simply have a bowl of muesli or porridge a day topped with fruit that also contains soluble fibre, or try the cake recipe below!
Omega 3 essential fatty acids can reduce your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack. Oils containing omega 3 include fish oils and flaxseed oil. Foods include oily fish like sardines, tuna and salmon, meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, and seeds such as flaxseed and chia seeds.
The polyunsaturated oils in most nuts have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. A study released this week shows eating a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil and nuts can decrease incidences of heart disease by 30%. A handful of nuts a day is sufficient, raw is best! It is the antioxidants in olive oil that are thought to reduce LDL levels. This is another easy food to include in your diet, simply use a good quality extra virgin olive oil in your dressings and for light sautéing (not frying).
Soy lecithin may also be of benefit in lowering cholesterol. A 2010 study found a small amount of soy lecithin taken daily reduced LDL levels, although it appears more research is needed.
We have talked previously about the benefit of manuka honey, as a heat stable natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory for both internal and external use. Manuka honey is a popular ingredient in many of our products such as skin treatments from the Honey Collection, Comvita treatments and of course the pure honey itself. But it is not just the honey from the manuka flower that has health benefits.
The manuka tree (leptospermum scoparium) has similar health benefits to its Australian cousin, tea tree (Melaleuca). It is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and a natural antihistamine. These make it great for upper respiratory illnesses, bites and stings, as a natural deodorant, a treatment for skin infections such as athlete’s foot and dandruff, as well as acne, and for wound healing. It is also a natural relaxant. Further information is available here. All these features make the pure manuka oil an essential ingredient in your first aid kit. It is also available in ready-made skincare products, such as Kiwiherb’s Manuka paint for fungal infections, in the Manuka Biotics range of skin and haircare products (try the body lotion for eczema), or in the Natural Solution East Cape Manuka No Paine roll-on. Natural Solution also make teas with manuka for antioxidant or immune support. And don’t forget what a great smoking wood manuka is for all those fish you have caught over the summer break!
Mustard originated in different parts of Europe and Asia, and has been used for thousands of years, as referenced in both ancient Sanskrit texts and the Bible. It was the ancient Romans who first ground it into a paste to make the first version of mustard as a paste as most people know it today. However the seed itself has far more benefits than just being a yummy condiment! Mustard seed are packed with many vitamins and minerals necessary for our overall health. It is a member of the brassica family, and as with other brassicas like broccoli and kale contains phytonutrients called glucosinolates. It is thought that glucosinolates may help prevent cancers of the organs, and this is currently being studied. It also contains good levels of omega 3s, selenium, phosphorous and manganese, which in turn are good for inflammation, asthma, and healthy bones and teeth, amongst many other things. It contains sulphur which is antifungal and antibacterial, making it great for fighting skin infections. Mustard seeds are also high in fibre and contain a mucilage that can help relieve constipation. They contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin which help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
The glucosinolates in mustard also gives the mustard plant a bitter flavour, making it a great pest deterrent. It can be grown around other crops to keep pests at bay. It also makes a great cover crop at this time of year. Simply let grow in a garden bed over winter to prevent weeding, then dig the whole plant in to the soil in spring to provide nutrients, structure and extra micro-organism activity in the soil.
And don’t forget how versatile mustard is in the kitchen! As well as serving with meats and cheeses, prepared or ground mustard gives that extra flavour to creamy recipes like mayonnaise, cheese sauce, and potato salad. It is also a great addition to chutneys and sauces. The different variety of mustards available come from mixing different varieties of mustard seeds with different liquids such as wine, water or verjus, and grinding the seeds or leaving them whole. Black or brown seeds produce the hottest while white mustard seeds are the mildest. Turmeric is often added to make yellow mustard.
You can also sprout the seeds to enhance their nutrients; these make a great addition to salads and sandwiches. Simply soak for a few hours, then sprout in a jar or on a paper towel, they will be ready in 3-4 days.
Nuts are a fantastic source of nutrients for their size. They are high in protein, fibre, vitamins such as E & B2, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, copper and selenium. For example, did you know that only two brazil nuts a day will give you your daily requirement of selenium? Nuts are also a high source of fat which has given them a bad rap over the years. However nuts are a source of ‘good’ fats such as mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega 3 oils, and research shows regular consumption of nuts may actually improve heart health and help prevent heart disease and heart attacks. They have also been found to reduce total cholesterol levels and LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels. Even peanuts, despite being technically a legume, are a good source of the good oils.
Being high in fibre, protein, and fat also means nuts keep you fuller for longer, and reduce the glycemic load of any sweet food they are eaten with by slowing down the speed at which blood sugar levels are increased, making them a good choice for diabetics.
If you are vegetarian, nuts are also a fantastic source of protein, containing nearly as much protein as meat. These protein levels can be increase further by ‘activating’ the nuts—soaking them to break down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that are designed to keep the nut (which is essentially a seed) whole until it finds a suitable place to sprout. This also increases the availability of other nutrients in the nut.
They are also incredibly versatile! Cashew nuts ,for example, produce a beautiful creaminess when ground down, making them a great dairy free alternative (see our cashew and almond ‘Mimicreme’ in store for example). Almonds and hazelnuts make a lovely nut milk (also in store), and for gluten-free baking try one of the many recipes available for cakes with ground almonds. This time of year nearly any type of nut can be used as a basis for a fresh basil pesto. Remember though, for maximum nutrition eat a variety of nuts and keep them raw.
For further information see:
In recent years protein has been given a lot of publicity due to diets such as the Atkins and Paleo diets, and its use for building muscle in the body building industry. But what is protein, how much do we need and how do we get it? Protein is found in many foods, and is a macronutrient that helps provide energy, and growth and maintenance of body tissue. It is found in all our cells and provides essential amino acids which carry out many functions in the body including repair (especially in muscles bones skin and hair), removing waste and metabolism. Protein also has the added bonus of keeping us fuller for longer as it is slowly metabolised, which is where it has become popular in diets that reduce carbohydrates and increase protein and fats. The most common agreement on the protein we need is .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for a sedentary adult, although you will require more if you are more active or have a high metabolism. How does this look in real terms? For a women of 60kg this would mean about 48g protein a day. For a man of 90kg this would be 72g.
Protein is found in most foods, but is highest in meat, dairy products and eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes and some grains. Meat, cheese and most nuts contain are made up of about 20-25% protein. Next is eggs, soy beans, tempeh and tofu at 13-18% protein, followed by milk and yoghurt and most other legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, and some grains such as quinoa and buckwheat at 3-9%. Fruit and vegetables and most other grains have amounts less than 3%. So that would mean to get 50g of protein in your day you would need 100g piece of meat (25g), 1 large egg (6g), 1/4 cup almonds (8g), 1 glass milk (8g) and some high protein grains or legumes with your fruits and vegetables. Vegetarians or vegans would need to replace meat with high protein nuts and seeds, legumes and grains. Animal –based proteins are considered ‘complete proteins’ as they contain all essential amino acids, however if you are consuming a variety of different proteins in a day you will get all amino acids you need.
There are other ways to increase protein in your diet if needed, for example legume flours such as chickpea flour are very high in protein and can be used to replace regular flour in some recipes (try our bean pastas with very high protein levels!) and protein powders can be added to smoothies for an instant protein hit. Sprouting also increases the protein levels of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds (check out our sprouted snacks by Little Bird for an example). There are also many high protein recipes around now, such as this muesli bar recipe a customer recently shared with us as seen in our newsletter.
As fantastic as whole foods are, it is often the seasonings we add to a dish that really makes it, from a pinch of salt to a complex curry paste. But we may not also know how beneficial these flavours are to health as well. Each month we discuss the merits of a different herb in this newsletter, but did you know that many of our culinary spices can be used medicinally as well?
One you may have heard mentioned recently is turmeric. Turmeric is the vibrant yellow colour found in curry powder that stains your clothes and kitchenware. Although not strong in flavour it is very strong in health benefits. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is an antioxidant that early research suggests it may be helpful in treating inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis and colitis, and even cancer.
Turmeric’s zingier cousin, ginger, can be helpful in treating a number of conditions such as nausea (including morning sickness), dizziness, and menstrual pain. As it is also an anti-inflammatory it has also been found useful in treating osteoarthritis. Its warming benefits are also great for colds and flus and poor circulation.
Fenugreek, another essential ingredient in curry powder, helps slow the absorption of sugars in the stomach, making it useful for people with diabetes. It is also used to help promote milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, increase libido in men and women, and for indigestion and gastritis.
Cinnamon is another superspice being useful in the treatment of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, for candida infections, arthritis relief and brain health. And it is very easy to take by adding some to your morning cereal or smoothie, or in your baking.
You can take these spices in medicinal doses for specific complaints, but simply using these and other spices in liberal quantities will not only make your food taste fantastic, it will be a very tasty way to enjoy the preventative benefits of these plants. Make sure you use high quality organic spices, and replace them every six months for optimum freshness. For a good mix try our beautiful organic curry powder in the dahl recipe from our October newsletter, or try this chai tea recipe from our July newsletter.
Whole fruit powders
There are so many fabulous fruits out there that can be added to smoothies, cereals and sweet treats. But not all fruits are available all the time in New Zealand, especially some of super-nutritious tropical fruits. We also don’t always have the time to prepare all the ingredients first thing in the morning! Fortunately there are many great fruit powders now available that can be easily spooned into smoothies or water, sprinkled on to cereals or mixed into raw fudges. As well as being delicious, these powders are highly nutritious, and can be taken for specific health concerns or for overall good health. As well as more well known fruits like blueberries, here are some of our favourite fruit powders from the Matakana range:
Camu Camu has been found to contain very high quality plant-based Vitamin C, making it ideal for those wanting a strong but natural source of Vitamin C.
Yumberry has a very high concentration of Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs). These bioflavanoid complexes perform as free radical scavengers in the human body. OPCs can cross the brain blood barrier to support the brain and nervous system, as well as helping support the strength of blood vessels.
Maqui berry has very high levels of a broad spectrum of antioxidants, and may be especially beneficial for detoxing, heart health and general cellular support.
Pomegranate is a great source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially Vitamins C and K. It is great for prostate health, hormone health and mood.
Acai berry is another antioxidant superstar, and is also high in beneficial phytochemicals, micronutrients and omegas. These berries are considered good for heart and bowel health, immune support and energy.
Mangosteen contains a number of phytochemicals that help support the immune system at a cellular level. As such it is great for immune health, especially at this time of year. It’s antimicrobial properties also make it a useful treatment for acne.
Gac fruit contains 70 x more lycopene than tomato, and its other ingredients make the lycopene more bio-available. Lycopene is known to be good for heart and artery health and cholesterol.
Vegans avoid eating any food produced by animals, from meat (including seafood) to dairy products and eggs to honey. This is most commonly done for ethical reasons, as animals are considered sentient beings that should not be eaten. For many vegans this also means avoiding non-food animal products such as leather and silk, and any products tested on animals. However many people have found health benefits of eating a well-balanced plant-based diet, including the increase in vitamins such as C, E and folic acid, and extra fibre. Research suggests a vegan diet may be beneficial in reducing obesity-related chronic disease and increasing longevity. Vegan food is not just the preserve of vegans though, with many people eating vegan products as a regular part of their diet (such as on Meat Free Mondays) either for environmental reasons or for their own health, including dairy intolerances. And there is plenty of variety on a vegan diet!
There are many protein sources other than meat and dairy, such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and grains (especially when sprouted), and many products such as tofu and tempeh (see below for a great tempeh ’bacon’ recipe!), and TVP (textured vegetable protein) can be used to replace mince. Sometimes convenient foods are needed, and we have vegan sausages for barbeques and sausage rolls for parties. We also have dairy-free products for every occasion, from dairy-free milks, yoghurt and ice-cream to table spreads, whipping cream, condensed milk, sour cream and cream cheese, even cheeses like parmesan, cheddar, melty mozzarella, or try our easy Angel Foods cheese sauce. There are many vegan baking recipes available (check out our recipe books in store), and products such as chia, linseed and Orgran’s “No Egg” (which you can even use to make meringues) can be used to replace eggs in many recipes. And don’t forget our selection of vegan chocolate…
As with any diet it is important to make sure it is balanced with sufficient fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and good fats . To avoid eating too much soy (the most common ingredient in many vegan products), we have products such as coconut yoghurt and pea-based mozzarella. We also have Vitamin B12 supplements (B12 is naturally found in meat or micro-organisms in soil so is hard to obtain in a western vegan diet). Nutritional Yeast is a fortified inactive yeast that can be sprinkled on food and is super tasty, or try our Vitamin B12 tablets, or oral drops,
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that we need to replenish daily as humans are one the few mammals that do not produce it themselves. Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissue. It also helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. We need Vitamin C to heal wounds and repair and maintain bones and teeth.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals, substances that damage DNA. The build-up of free radicals over time may contribute to the ageing process and the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Some studies suggest that vitamin C, as an antioxidant, can slow down hardening of the arteries, helping reduce heart disease. Foods rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin C have also been shown to contribute to a lower risk of high blood pressure. It can help reduce the length and severity of the common cold. Research from Otago University has found that vitamin C can help curb the growth of cancer cells. People who eat diets rich in vitamin C have also been found to be less likely to be diagnosed with arthritis. Vitamin C appears to work with other antioxidants to protect the eyes against developing macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in people over 55.
There are many foods rich in Vitamin C, such as oranges, peppers, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwifruit, mango, broccoli, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and citrus juices. Leafy greens, red potatoes, pumpkin, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and pineapple are also rich sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat, so it is best to eat these fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked. To take larger doses of vitamin C as some recommend, you can supplement these dietary sources with capsules, tablets or powders. We have many different types available in store.
For more information see:
Food – based Supplements
In an ideal world, we would be able to get all the nutrients we need from a well-balanced diet due to the richness of our soils, and our already perfect health, hormones and digestion meaning our bodies absorb every last nutrient from what we eat. Unfortunately, often poor soils, poor digestion, poor health or poor eating habits mean sometimes we do require supplementation. Some people think of taking supplements a necessary evil, but did you know there are many supplements available that are food-based, meaning you can obtain high doses of nutrients from concentrated food sources?
Our Lifestream range, for example, is entirely food-based. Their Vitamin C comes from acerola berries, their magnesium is marine-sourced, and of course their ‘multi vitamin’ is spirulina. Thompsons also has a range of natural minerals such as organic zinc. The Matakana range has many high– nutrient wholefoods in powder form, such as acai, maca powder and sacha inchi. There are also a number of whole-food combinations to boost your overall nutrition. Our new Raw range, for example, has an all-natural multi-vitamin powder, natural vitamin C powder, immune-boosting powder and a probiotic powder. It also has a greens mix and a protein powder, for addressing specific dietary imbalances naturally.
One of the main advantages of food-based supplements is the bioavailablilty of the nutrients. Often we will absorb and utilise more of a nutrient when it is in a whole food form, as it is combined with other nutrients that work together synergistically. One of the other advantages of taking food-based supplements is the added bonus of these other nutrients. For example, each of the Matakana range of single-ingredient powders have specific health benefits (eg sacha inchi is naturally high in protein) but also contain other vitamins, minerals fibre, etc that help make up the whole food, that you can also benefit from.
Click here for more information.
The black walnut tree (Juglans Nigra) is grown for its wood rather than walnuts, but the green nuts and the leaves have been used for centuries for their medicinal qualities. The hull of the green nut is a powerful anti-parasitic. The tannins in the leaves help reduce skin inflammation and itching making it useful for treating eczema. As it has some of the anti-parasitic qualities of the nut, it is also useful for treating parasitic skin infections and as an insect repellant. The leaves are high in sulfur and iodine and can help stimulate appetite. Click here for more information.
Cornsilk (Zea Mays) is literally the silk found at the top of an ear of corn. It is most commonly used to treat ailments of the genitourinary tract. It is a diuretic and reduces inflammation, making it a soothing treatment for bladder infections and prostate problems by reducing the frequency of needing to urinate. This also makes it a good treatment for bedwetting, and for reducing the pain of kidney stones. It can also help reduce high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. For further info including contraindications see www.webmd.com and www.knowledgebase-script.com
Echinacea is a perennial plant endemic to North America. It is the Angustafolia variety that is most commonly used medicinally. Echinacea is an essential tool as we head into winter, as it is an immune regulator. It is well known for its ability to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flus, although it can be used for any infection. Studies also suggest it may help reduce pain and inflammation and is antiviral and antioxidant, making it useful for treating conditions such as yeast and urinary tract infections. For more information click here
Garcinia Cambogia is a fruit grown in tropical forests in parts of Southeast Asia, the African continent and India. It’s dried fruit is most commonly used for its sour taste in curries. It has recently been promoted as helping weight loss by Dr Oz. It may prevent fat production and storage, and may also work as an appetite suppressant, especially in reducing emotional eating. However further trials are needed to confirm these benefits. It can be taken in combination with other natural weight loss supplements in products such as Go Healthy’s Slim Fast Gold.
Green tea (Camellia Sinensis) is full of strong antioxidants that may help protect against a number of cancers. Its combination of caffeine and l-theanine give it a more sustainable energy boost than coffee. Its bioactive compounds may also help with brain function as we reach older age. It contains anti-bacterial properties that may help improve dental health. It can help reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease, and help with weight loss by boosting metabolism. Try drinking green tea daily, or add green tea powder to your smoothies. See here for more information.
Holy Basil is also known as Tulsi in Hindu, which apparently means “the incomparable one”. It is actually more closely related to mint than sweet basil, and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for ailments such as digestion, cold and flus, infections and headaches. It appears to be antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti- fungal. Research has found it to be an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body respond in times of stress. For more information click here.
Horsetail (Equisetum Arvensis) contains silicic acid, potassium, calcium and aluminium salts. It may be used to help reduce bleeding, including ulcers and excessive menstrual bleeding. It is a diuretic, and may be used for treating urinary tract infections, kidney stones and prostate problems. Topically it may help reduce bleeding, and can be used for general wound healing as well as healing sprains, burns and fractures. It is also great for skin, hair and nails. For dosage and contraindications see www.herbal-supplement-resource.com
The marshmallow plant (Althaea Officinalis) is native to Europe and parts of Asia. The roots contain a healing mucilage that is also the origin of our modern day marshmallow confectionary. It is a head to toe healer being useful for soothing coughs and asthma, inflammation and of the digestive tract, and for soothing urinary tract infections. Equally useful externally, it can be used to treat skin irritations and inflammations. For more information see http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/marshmallow-000265.htm
Also known as St Mary’s Thistle or Silybum Marianum, Milk Thistle is most commonly used to help improve liver function and protect it from toxicity such as alcohol and drugs. It may also be helpful for problems with cholesterol and gallbladder issues, and even cancer. The active chemical in milk thistle is silymarin. Silymarin functions as an antioxidant, inhibiting the factors responsible for organ damage and promoting the growth of healthy cells. For more information and contraindications check out www.milkthistle.com
Motherwort (leonurus cardica) is from the mint family, and originally found in Asia and South Eastern Europe. It is so named as it has been traditionally been used as a uterine tonic. Motherwort contains the alkaloid leonurine which helps blood vessels dilate. As such it is used as a muscle relaxant, for calming gut disturbances, a heart tonic (including for heart problems due to anxiety), to treat insomnia and to help stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus. It is not suitable to be taken during pregnancy. Click here for further information and contraindications.
Mullein (Verbascum) is a perennial flowering plant from the figwort family, native to Asia and Europe. The furry leaves have a number of health benefits. Mullein has traditionally been used for respiratory problems due to its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, and soothing mucilage. These same factors make it useful for soothing and healing wounds, skin conditions and ear infections. It can be taken as a tea or used in skin preparations. Click here for dosage and contraindications.
Nettle tea can be used to treat colds and flu symptoms such as congested lungs, sore throats, runny noses, fever and coughs. Nettle has long been used as a diuretic for increasing the flow of urine and treating a variety of kidney and bladder conditions. This can also make it useful in lowering blood pressure. Nettle leaves contain large amounts of iron, vitamin C and chlorophyll. They also contain a substance that inhibits inflammation and can help relieve hives, rashes and other inflammatory skin conditions. For further information and contraindications see www.nettle-tea.net
Nigella sativa, sometimes called black cumin, is a traditional Indian spice known as kalonji, used in curries and sprinkled on flatbreads with a flavour like toasted onion. It has many medicinal properties, including being anti-inflammatory and antifungal. It can help reduce blood sugar levels, decrease LDL cholesterol and blood pressure and prevent the heart from damage. It has also shown promise in treating a number of different cancers including colon, breast, oral, brain and leukemia. Topically it can help with psoriasis and scarring. For more information click here.
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella Bursa-Pasoris) is most commonly thought of as a weed. It can decrease bleeding, stimulate muscles and increase uterine contractions. It is most commonly used to stop internal bleeding including excessive menstrual bleeding, and reduce chronic diarrhea. It can also help relieve cystitis. It can be used externally to reduce bleeding and speed up healing, and used to treat eczema. For more information see http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/herbal-remedies/shepherds-purse-herbal-remedies.htm
Pau’ Darco is the inner bark of the Tabebuia(Taheebo) tree. It contains the active components lapachol, quercetin and other flavonoids. These have been found by some to help reduce cancer tumours and alleviate the symptoms of chemotherapy. It has also been used as an expectorant for deep coughs. It is considered to be antiparisitical and antifungal so may be useful in the treatment of various fungi and bacteria such as Candida, Streptococcus, and Helicobacter Pylori. For further information and precautions see www.paudarco.com
Red clover is most commonly known as a fodder crop for sheep and cattle, and as a nitrogen-fixing crop. However it can also be used for human health. It is a source of phytoestrogens therefore has been used for menopausal symptoms, and for PMS. This eostrogen-like effect may be useful in reducing osteoporosis and heart disease, and hormone related cancers, however more research is needed. It may also have blood-thinning and anti-inflammatory effects, being used to treat children’s coughs and skin conditions. See here for more information.
Our sarsaparilla, Hemidesmus Indicus, is also known as East Indian Sarsaparilla or Sugandi Root. It is a perennial creeper with very aromatic roots. As well as making a beautiful tea, this sarsaparilla has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for stomach problems (especially peptic ulcer), rashes, high blood pressure and stress. It is also used for meditation and to induce a trance-like state. But research is starting to show other benefits as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antidiarrheal, antioxidant and even anti-venom.
The herb Stevia Rebaudiana contains steviol glycoside which is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Despite tasting sweet, stevia has almost no calories or carbohydrates making it ideal for diabetics or those reducing their sugar intake. It is most commonly used as a sugar substitute in hot and cold beverages. For baking it is often mixed with a sugar alcohol such as erythritol. You can buy drops, tablets or granules, or you can grow your own plant and simply add a fresh leaf to your cuppa!
St John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is a yellow flowering herb indigenous to Europe. A number of studies have found St John’s Wort to be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression, and it is also commonly used to treat anxiety. Its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties mean it is popular as a topical treatment for skin irritations and nerve conditions such as sciatica and shingles. For more information and contraindication see http://altmedicine.about.com/od/stjohnswort/a/stjohnswort.htm
Vervain (also known as verbena) is a plant from the mint family with flowers similar to lavender. Vervain has not been widely researched, however people have found it helps ease anxiety and helps with sleep, and may help with premenstrual syndrome. As a relaxant it is also helpful for digestion, helping ease bloating and gas. It also has anti-inflammatory properties making it a treatment for osteoarthritis. It may also help with colds, respiratory disease and sinusitis. See here for further information.
The bark from the White Willow (salix alba) tree has been used medicinally since Egyptian times. Used to treat pain, inflammation and fever, a derivative of the active ingredient salicylic acid is now produced synthetically and sold as aspirin. Studies have found white willow effective in treating headaches, lower back pain and osteoarthritis. For more information see these links at www.altmedicine.com and www.umm.edu
Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium) is a herb native to Europe and America that is well known in New Zealand. Introduced here as a drought-resistant fodder crop, it has also become a common weed. However, as well as the leaves and flowers being edible by stock and humans, it is a good companion crop in the garden, and has a number of health benefits. Yarrow can help reduce gas and bloating and reduce bleeding (for wounds, hemorrhoids and periods). It is anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. See here for more information and contraindications.
Yerba Mate is a species of holly native to South America, where it is served as a hot beverage similar to tea or coffee. It contains many vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. It is a good source of vitamins A, C, E, most of B complex, nicotinic and pantothenic acids, biotin, magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, manganese, phosphates and chromium. The combination of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and caffeine results in a steady boost in energy levels, and helps balance blood sugar levels, making it the perfect afternoon cuppa. For more info see yerbamatecafe.com