What the heck even is yerba mate tea?

Yerba Mate, pronounced mah-tay.

Iced Yerba Mate tea, from Peace Café in Honolulu.

Up until approximately one week ago, I was merrily going about my life with the firm understanding that there was a magical drink in existence that had the very Australian name Yerba Mate. I really liked the idea of drinking a tea that has ‘mate’ in its name so I was slightly (read: very) put out to realise it is actually pronounced mah-tay. Luckily for it, and me, its incredible health benefits exist regardless of what it’s called.
So, what’s the deal? It is traditionally a South American beverage that is made from the ground stems and leaves of the yerba mate plant. It is a safe nervous system stimulant (it contains about the same amount of caffeine as black tea) and it is jammed full of antioxidants, amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
I first heard about yerba mate while I was in Bali on a health retreat. My fellow health retreaters were raving about the tea’s benefits, with the common theme being that it increased mental clarity and focus without the jitters and headaches that can come with drinking coffee. Upon arriving home, I promptly forgot about the conversations and the very existence of this magical tea. It wasn’t until I saw it on a menu in Hawaii that I finally gave it a go.
Yerba mate has a fairly neutral flavour and can be drunk hot or iced, flavoured or plain (such a versatile little fella, that tea). Within a few minutes of consuming it, I started to feel more energised and mentally clear. The energy lasted for hours and I didn’t get the shakes, which I quite often do when I have had a coffee.
Some of the other benefits include its ability to help digestive issues. It does this by stimulating increased production of gastric acids. Because it helps reduce the bacteria that is present in the stomach, it freshens your breath. The tea also helps you to feel full by slowing down your digestion, which means you eat less and lose weight (if that’s something you’re wanting to focus on but I think you look great, just sayin’). The final main benefit it offers is that it supports your cardiovascular health by helping fat and cholesterol move through the bloodstream, rather than it sticking to your artery’s walls.
Yerba mate is starting to become available at cafes and restaurants that have a healthy offering and you can also pick it up from any good health shop.
If you’re looking for a replacement to your regular caffeinated heart starter then yerba mate might just be the new mate (ha!) you’ve been waiting for.
Laura

Queen quinoa. Six reasons why you should get this seed in you.

A healthy take on fried rice.

A healthy take on fried rice.

Confused about that new buzz grain/seed/nut thing, called quinoa, that everyone is raving about? So was I. It’s pronounced keen-wah and it’s worth checking out.

As I found out last week, quinoa is actually a seed. I’d assumed it was a grain and only discovered my mistake after months of telling anyone who would stand still long enough to listen that I was obsessed with a grain I’d recently come across. What’s that saying? When you assume, you make an ass out of… something something. Anyway, it’s a seed. And a versatile one at that. I eat it as porridge, put it in salads and use it as a rice substitute.

This little ripper of a seed (did I really just write ‘little ripper’ and I wasn’t being ironic? Apparently, yes.) comes from the Andean region of South America and it is super good for you.

Here are some of its standout features:

  1. It is alkalising, so it helps to counteract acidity in the body and ease inflammation.
  2. It is a great source of calcium.
  3. It fills you up without being heavy.
  4. Its protein levels are off the chart and it contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein.
  5. It is rich in manganese and magnesium.
  6. It has almost twice as much fibre as other grains.

You don’t even need to go to a health-food shop to get it! Your local supermarket  should stock it in both of its varieties: red and white. Both are equally good for you so it comes down to your preference. I like to mix them together to get a variety of colours on my plate. It’s crazily versatile and it doesn’t weigh you down like rice and wheat can. It definitely deserves all of the kudos it has received recently. Check it out!

Laura

 

Is chocolate really bad for you?

Raw chocolate bars

Homemade raw chocolate bars.

For years marketing teams have been working hard to convince us that some forms of our favourite chocolate bars are actually good for us. This is usually done by suggesting that because a chocolate bar now comes in a 70%-cocoa form, the high cocoa count somehow cancels out all of the other nasties that come with it. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

Most of the chocolate you’ll find at the supermarket or servo is made from cocoa beans that are sourced incredibly cheaply from countries, like Africa, that have a nasty little insect called the Capra beetle. To ensure all of these insects are killed before the cocoa beans are sent to be turned into chocolate, the beans are sprayed heavily with methyl bromide gas. According to the United State’s EPA government site, ethyl bromide “is highly toxic. Studies in humans indicate that the lung may be severely injured by acute (short-term) inhalation of methyl bromide.” The site goes on to say that it can cause neurological effects in humans. Not nice at all. To make doubly sure that you aren’t going to end up with some extra crunch, in the form of beetle shell in your chocolate, the beans are then irradiated.

It doesn’t get any better from there. The beans then have the absolute bajeezus processed out of them. They are cooked, drenched in chemicals and mixed with copious amounts of sugar (just one serve of Cadbury chocolate contains 34% of your daily recommended sugar intake!). By the time the poor old cocoa bean gets to your mouth, it has been so abused that it lacks almost all of its former health benefits and now will actually damage your body.

It’s not all bad though. In its raw, un-bastardised form, cacao (its true name) is actually one of the most potent superfoods on the planet. It contains all of the essential trace minerals, like magnesium (which most Australians are hugely deficient in), that have been depleted from our soil through conventional farming practises. It is also very high in iron, has off-the-chart antioxidant levels and is jammed full of vitamin C.

Still not convinced? How about this: it contains phenylethylamine, which is a chemical that the brain creates when we fall in love (awww). Ever wondered why chocolate is the gift of lovers all around the world? Well now you know.

Raw chocolate is becoming increasingly easy to come by. My favourite brand, Pana Chocoloate, is made in Richmond, Melbourne, and I have seen it stocked at a few different places. If you are ever in Richmond, I highly recommend stopping by their flagship store to try a piece of the white chocolate and raspberry cake. To. Die. For. The other brand I like is Loving Earth, who are also based in Melbourne. They have a big range and you can order their chocolate online.

Once you go raw, you won’t want to go back.

Laura

The Whole Pantry: a quick review (and a chocolate nut butter cups recipe)

So, so, so very good.

So, so, so very good.

Confession time: I’m a little bit (OK, a lot) obsessed with Belle Gibson and her stunning app, The Whole Pantry, which is available on iTunes and Android.

I first discovered Belle a couple of months ago through the website of another of my favourite wellness girls: Melissa Ambrosini. I was immediately captivated by Belle’s message, and her spirit and determination. At only 12 years of age, Belle moved out of home because she wanted to experience more out of life. A few years ago, Belle was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, which was the catalyst for her realisation that she needed to focus 100% on her health, which meant discovering a whole new world of clean eating. It was also the trigger for the creation of her hugely successful The Whole Pantry app, which was launched in August of this year.

The Whole Pantry is the first of its kind. It is a collection of lifestyle, health and wellness advice, and enticing recipes. All of this goodness is accessed via an elegantly designed interface. The Guides section of the app reads like a who’s who of the health world, with contributions from David Wolfe, Nat Kringoudis and Lola Berry, to name just a few. The app truly is a one-stop-shop for all things health. If you haven’t already, I can’t recommend enough that you download the app.

OK, onto the recipe. Boy, oh boy, will these babies change everything you ever believed about the world chocolate. Not only are they melt-in-your-mouth good but, because they are loaded with nutrients, your body will thank you for eating them.

The Ingredients

(Makes eight serves)

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 2.5 tbs. maple syrup
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Optional: a tablespoon of maca, mesquite or lucuma powder for extra nutrients.
  • 1/4 cup of raw nut butter (I like peanut butter)

The Method

  1. Whisk the cacao and salt through the melted coconut oil and maple syrup so no clumps are present.
  2. Pour 1tsp. of chocolate mixture into mini muffin cases and pop them in freezer for five minutes (or until firm).
  3. Remove from freezer and spoon a dollop of nut butter into the centre of each chocolate.
  4. Top each chocolate with 1 tbs. of chocolate mixture and leave to set in fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Laura

Six reasons why I love chia seeds

Hard to believe such little things could contain so much goodness!

Hard to believe such little things could contain so much goodness!

There is so much to love about chia seeds. They are versatile little suckers that boast a huge range of health benefits. I eat them pretty much every day because they are an easy way to support your health without too much hassle.

Among other things, chia seeds sport the following benefits:

  1. They are loaded with protein. Each seed contains 20% of the stuff! And they are a complete protein source, which means they include all of the essential amino acids.
  2. They have a bucket load of omega 3s (substantially more than salmon and you can get the omegas without risking a side of mercury poisoning).
  3. They are chock full of vitamin C (a lot more than what you’d find in the good ol’ orange).
  4. Their calcium levels are off the chart. As are their iron levels.
  5. They are fantastic at balancing blood glucose levels.
  6. They taste great!

As I said, I eat them every day. I always add them to my smoothies and I also sprinkle them on my oats, in my stir fries and risottos, and make chia pudding to take with me for a quick and nutritious snack.

There are a million different chia seed pudding recipes (just type ‘chia seed pudding’ into Google to see what I mean) but my favourite type is to blend up some frozen berries with a bit of almond milk, cacao and acai powder then stir the mixture through some chia seeds and pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes to set. You can also add hemp seeds for an extra boost. Don’t worry too much about measurements. Chia seeds are really forgiving!

You can pick you chia seeds from the supermarket or any health food store. As always, go for the organic variety if you can. Oh and both black and white chia seeds offer the same benefits so it’s up to you which variety you prefer.

Laura

Why acai will rock your tastebuds (and your health)

Way too many antioxidants for one photo.

Way too many antioxidants for one photo.

Like so many superfoods, acai has been somewhat hijacked by the marketing arms of companies who are trying to convince us that their sugary processed products are actually good for us, which means it is sometimes regarded with a fair dose of suspicion. You see the word ‘acai’ plastered all over the packaging of things like sorbet, smoothies and biscuits. My experience of these products has been that in most, if not all, cases the amount of acai is a) negligible and b) irrelevant because the product is so full of other junk that I can’t see how you’d get any benefits from eating it.

Anyway, less processed-food ranting and more acai loving! Acai (which is a berry that is found in the Amazon) has earned its spot in the superfoods hall of fame because of its off-the-chart antioxidant levels (500% more than the humble blueberry). And we all know how important antioxidants are because who doesn’t want to protect themselves against those pesky free radicals?!

Acai is very good for your heart because it is thought to help lower cholesterol levels and it improves blood circulation. It’s also a good source of fibre and it helps keep your digestive system on track through its powerful detoxification abilities. The other main benefits of acai are that it helps keep you looking young (thanks to our friends, the antioxidants) and it gives you sustained energy. It’s clever little berry, that acai!

You can find acai at any good health store or online, and it comes in a couple of different forms, with the most common two being powder and frozen blocks. Both options make great additions to your smoothies but if you’re looking for a way to create a healthy, nutrient-packed dessert, then the frozen blocks are your ticket to guilt-free treats. You can use them to make acai bowls, which will (as the title of this post says) rock your tastebuds and your health.

The Ingredients (makes two serves)

  • Two bricks of frozen acai
  • A handful of frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 an apple
  • Some chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 tsp. Manuka honey
  • 1/4 cup of chopped almonds
  • Three tbsp. of hemp or chia seeds
  • A little bit of apple juice or coconut water so you can blend everything together

The Process

In a blender, whizz up all of the ingredients except the fresh strawberries, almonds and chia seeds. Just add the apple juice (or coconut water) a little at a time to make sure your mixture doesn’t end up too runny, then scoop it into two bowls.

All you need to do now is sprinkle on your hemp or chia seeds, the almonds and strawberries. Serve immediately and enjoy at any time of the day – yes, this is so good for you that it can be eaten for breakfast.

Dessert for breakfast? It doesn’t get much better than that!

Laura

Fertility Fridays: why your hormones need maca

Loving Earth's maca is great tasting and great value.

Loving Earth’s maca is great tasting and great value.

Welcome to week two of Fertility Fridays. This week I want to tell you a bit about my absolute favourite hormone fixer, maca. Maca has approximately eleventy million benefits and today I want to focus on how it supports the endocrine system and, thus, helps keep you nice and fertile.

Maca’s biggest drawcard is that it is an adaptogen, which means that it helps your body to balance itself out. For example, if you have a sluggish thyroid, maca will help to rev it up. If your thyroid is overactive, maca helps to make it less active. Clever, yes?

While you will usually see it in a powdered form, it is actually a root vegetable from Peru. It has a slightly nutty flavour and it tastes great when combined with raw cacao. The Peruvians have been clued on to maca’s truckload of benefits for a very long time. Thankfully they were kind enough to spread the maca love with the rest of the world, and you can now find it at any good health food store. If you can’t get to one of those, you can pick it up online. Loving Earth’s maca is my favourite.

Along with its ability to give your body a gentle push in the right direction, it is also a superhero on the nutrition front because it is chock full of minerals, amino acids, enzymes and, of course, vitamins (especially B vitamins). This is what makes it so great for sorting out any hormonal issues you may be experiencing. I find that if I haven’t been taking maca regularly, my PMS makes me a wee bit cray cray. However, if I make sure I’m getting one teaspoon of it a day, I’m fine.

Maca is, of course, a great thing to be taking if you are trying for a baby because of its ability to enhance fertility but it provides such good support for your hormones that it’s a good thing to be taking at any time. If your moods are a bit all over the place, maca will help to level them out. If you are menopausal, it will help there too. It also helps to boost libido and, hey, that’s a win for everyone involved!

So, how do I take it? I usually just add a teaspoon to my smoothie. If you’re not a smoothie person you can just mix it in with some yoghurt or get it in capsule form, if that’s more your style.

You can see why I love maca now, right?

Laura

My blueberry and hemp seed super smoothie

Such pretty colours!

Such pretty colours!

That I love green smoothies will come as no surprise to those who have spent any amount of time with me; however, there is enough space in my life (or blender) for many other types of smoothies too. I mean, who am I to turn down the veritable smorgasbord of amazing fruit, superfoods and crunchy seeds that Mother Nature has given us!

It was Dad’s birthday on Sunday so I headed back up to the country to celebrate with him, my sister and Mum. Before leaving Melbourne, I loaded up my car with a heap of fresh organic produce from my favourite grocer so I could make smoothies and juices while I was away. Dad has a Champion juicer, so I always take advantage of having access to it while I’m visiting and make lots of green juices. I don’t currently have a juicer so it’s a novelty to be able to use one but, you guys, guess what? I’M GETTING A JUICER! Yes, I know I didn’t need to shout but I am so excited! It should arrive in a fortnight and I can’t wait for its shiny new goodness to be in my kitchen. If you never see me again, it’s because I drowned in an ocean of juice. I’ll make sure I post some delicious juice recipes here first though.

Anyway, back to my smoothie story. So, I didn’t arrive until late on Friday night, which meant that come Saturday I was feeling a bit sleepy and needed a pick-me-up. I hunted through my stack of goodies and pulled out some frozen blueberries, almond milk and hemp seeds. I then raided the kitchen and found an avocado, a few strawberries and some chia seeds.

The Ingredients*

So much goodness in one photo!

So much goodness in one photo!

  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 3 strawberries
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • tbsp. of chia seeds
  • 1/2 a cup of hemp seeds
  • Enough almond milk to cover everything once it’s in the blender (‘enough’ is a measurement, right?!)

* Makes one large glass

The Process

Waiting to be blitzed up.

Waiting to be blitzed up (featuring the Champion juicer in the background).

That heading is a bit deceiving, right? It promises in-depth steps when the reality of it is that I just dumped everything in the blender and turned up the dial. So, erm, just do that, OK?

The Finished Product

Purple love.

Purple love.

Chuck in some more strawberries because they look pretty and sprinkle on some more hemp seeds because, well, do you really need me to explain why (hint: they are crazy delicious) and Bob’s your uncle. Or something.

Enjoy, kids!

Laura

Colostrum: my go-to-energy source and immune booster

My now-not-so-secret super power.

My now-not-so-secret super power.

You have probably started to notice a bit of a theme that runs through thislittlegreenpocket: I’m a total energy fiend. This addiction has manifested itself in many ways over the years, with varying results. Before I dived headfirst into the wellness world, I used sugar-laden energy drinks as my crutch. Sure, they gave me a quick (if somewhat jittery and unnerving) boost, but they didn’t provide sustained energy and came packaged up with a whole host of icky side effects.

These days, I turn to a range of clean and healthy options to make sure I’m firing on all cylinders. It’s so important to me that I keep my energy levels up so that I can get through everything I want to in a day without feeling like I’m running on empty. My 100% works-every-time superfood/super-energy-giver/lifesaver is colostrum.

Colostrum is the very first food a mammal mother gives her baby when it is born, which means it is chock full of everything needed to give the newborn the best start at life and therefore it gives the immune system a very powerful boost. It is often considered to be the first milk and it can be present for up to two weeks (depending on the mammal). From a supplement perspective though, you want to look for one that was collected within the first six hours of birth (this collection is sometimes called the first milking). After this point, the level of bioactive material drops substantially (click here for a list of what is in first-milking colostrum), meaning that it becomes less powerful.

You also want to make sure the company you buy it from is obtaining the colostrum in a sustainable and ethical manner. I get mine from David Wolfe’s Longevity Warehouse because I agree their values. In the wild, cows produce too much colostrum as an insurance policy. The farm that the Longevity Warehouse source their colostrum from makes sure their cows are happy and safe, which means the excess colostrum can be collected for human consumption without fear of shortchanging the calf.

I use colostrum in all sorts of things. If I’m making a raw dessert, I will throw in a tablespoon of it (I suppose you could use when baking too but I’m not sure how it would react to heat). I also add it to my smoothies or just mix it up with some water and gulp it down if I’m in a rush. I sometimes mix it into my porridge or stir it through some natural yoghurt. It has a mild slightly sweet flavour, so you can add it to pretty much anything and not really notice it.

Of all the superfoods I have discovered so far, colostrum is definitely one of my favourites for its versatility and its effectiveness.

If you are looking for a long-lasting, immune-building supplement, colostrum just might be for you.

Laura