6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

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I posted previously about the negative effects that sugar has on the body. Check out 8 Toxic Ways Sugar Impacts the Body. As I did with wheat flour and milk, I offer as a follow up a list of healthy alternatives.

Try reaching for one of these 6 natural substitutes for sugar, the next time you need a sweetener.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

What Not to Use as Sweeteners

Refined sugar, created through a lengthy process involving chemicals, is not healthy for us. It contributes to poor health and a host of disorders. Plus, the substance is addictive.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, are no better. Although considered safe by the FDA, these sweeteners produce unwanted side effects. Headaches, liver and kidney disorders, mood swings, increased appetite and thymus gland problems are all linked to the use of artificial sweeteners.

High fructose corn syrup, which is present in many packaged foods, is produced primarily from genetically modified corn. The liver metabolizes this fructose quickly, increasing fat in the liver and leading to digestives disorders.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

These tasty alternatives to refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup are natural and actually good for the body.

Coconut Sugar

The coconut is an amazing fruit. From it we get coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut sugar, along with the flesh of the fruit. Coconut sugar, which resembles coarse brown sugar, is high in minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and phosphorous. It is also rich in antioxidants.

The sugar comes from sap extracted from the coconut flower. It then goes through a heating and drying process, via evaporation.

Look for this alternative in supermarkets and health conscious food stores. In recipes, swap out refined sugar for coconut sugar on a 1:1 basis. Try these Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, using coconut sugar.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

Dates

Dried dates are powerful, easily digested fruits. They are high in vitamin B6, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and 70 other bioactive minerals that support digestive, brain and liver health. This amazing food fortifies muscles and nerves and even possesses anti-cancer properties.

Besides enjoying dates as they are, use to sweeten a variety of recipes. Cakes, quick breads, and pie crusts benefit from the addition of dates. Chop them up and soak in water first, to soften. Try out these Apricot Bars made with four ingredients.

Bananas

These versatile fruits are rich in fiber, potassium and vitamins B6 and C. Because of their sweetness, bananas are great natural substitutes for sugar.

Overripe bananas are sweeter and easier to process. Swap one cup of banana puree for every cup of sugar in a recipe. Simply chop bananas and puree in a blender or food processor, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary. This is a wonderful Blueberry Banana Bread recipe to try.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

Raw Organic Honey

Raw honey truly is a superfood. It is high in iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and vitamins B6 and B12. Honey is also rich with enzymes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Raw honey supports the immune system and helps to fight off colds, flus and allergies.

It is important to use raw organic honey, rather than processed. Pasteurized honey loses many of its health benefits. Look for raw organic honey at farmer’s markets or health food stores that purchase from local beekeepers.

Drizzle raw honey over fruit or gluten free oatmeal. Sweeten tea, sauces and curries with it. Or create this wonderful Turmeric Milk using raw honey.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

Organic Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is processed from maple trees in the US. Sap is collected from the tree, boiled to evaporate water and then filtered. This natural sweetener contains manganese, calcium, zinc and potassium and it’s rich with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. Look for the darker maple syrups, as these are higher in antioxidants.

Use maple syrup in baking, marinades, glazes, sauces and over gluten free pancakes. This steamed apple dessert is a simple yet tasty way to enjoy organic maple syrup.

Organic maple syrup is available in supermarkets and health conscious food stores. Or order online by clicking on photo below.


Stevia

Stevia is a plant native to South America. Processed from the plant’s leaves, stevia is many times sweeter than sugar. It contains zero calories however, and none of the negative side effects of artificial sweeteners.

However, I offer a caution with stevia. Some people experience an unpleasant aftertaste with it. And some products contain stevia that is processed with chemicals, making it a less than desirable sugar substitute. Read labels.

Look for pure, organic stevia, available as a liquid, dissolvable tablets or in powdered form. Purchase pure organic powdered stevia by clicking on photo below. Because a little stevia goes a long way, when substituting for sugar in recipes other bulking agents such as more flour or fruit puree must be used. I’ve never personally used stevia, so I don’t have a recipe for this one!


Which Natural Substitutes for Sugar Do I Use?

Since becoming plant based, I’ve tried all of the above natural substitutes for sugar, with the exception of stevia. However, I purchase dark chocolate chips sweetened with organic stevia and it’s a good product.

I primarily use coconut sugar and organic maple syrup for baking. Raw honey is perfect to drizzle over fresh berries or add to turmeric milk. Dates add sweetness to pie crusts and fruit bars.

Breaking the Sugar Habit

For me it became important to break the habit of having “sweets” after a meal or with afternoon tea. Nowadays, my snacks are fruits such as apples, watermelon or a bowl of mixed berries. By choice, I reserve baked goods and cookies for celebrations or infrequent treats.

When I do want to try a new recipe or honor a special occasion, it is wonderful to know that healthy and tasty natural substitutes for sugar exist…and I can use them without guilt or ill effects!

6 Natural Substitutes for SugarGluten free, refined sugar free pancakes with fruit and organic maple syrup.

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Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

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I enjoyed a first today. In the spirit of foraging, I gathered a wild edible yesterday from my backyard and allowed it to steep overnight in water. This afternoon, for tea time, I sipped on a refreshing cleavers cold water infusion.

I’ve read about the medicinal herb cleavers, that many consider a weed. Oddly enough, I even dreamed once about gathering the plant. It wasn’t until I studied foraging for wild edibles last fall that I realized I pull this “weed” out of my garden every spring, by the handfuls. In fact, I’ve been familiar with cleavers since my childhood. I’ll bet you know it too!

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

What is Cleavers?

Cleavers originated in Europe, covering much of the extended continent, from England to Siberia. Today it flourishes around the world, including Canada and much of the United States.

And when I say flourish, I mean that it grows everywhere, appearing in early spring. Look for it growing along rivers, sidewalks, fences and tree stumps or in great clumps in meadows and fields. Cleavers thrives especially well in cultivated gardens, I’ve discovered.

While it has a fancy Latin name, Galium aparine, this prolific plant is more commonly known as cleavers. That’s not what I called it though, as a child. I  called this plant “sticktights”. It’s also known by a variety of descriptive names such as grip grass, stickyweed, catchweed, velco plant, everlasting friendship and sticky willies.

The main identifying characteristic of cleavers are the fine sticky hairs that cover the plant. These sticky hairs enable the plant to cling to clothes or fur that it comes in contact with. That’s a pretty cool way to propagate! After the plant flowers it produces tiny sticky seeds as well, that create a nuisance for dogs or cats that brush against them. I used to pick these sticktights out of my pets’ fur after a romp through nearby fields.

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Identifying Cleavers

Cleavers is a wild edible that is easy to identify. The bright green plant puts out long straggly stems with spaced out whorls of six to eight leaves. Cleavers does flower, producing tiny white blooms. And the miniscule seeds are covered with itty bitty soft barbs. The best way to test the plant, to make sure it is cleavers, is to pluck a stem with leaves and press it against your shirt. If it sticks, it’s cleavers!

Cleavers Cold Water InfusionCleavers growing around a stump in my backyard.

Health Benefits of Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Used medicinally for centuries, cleavers offers many health benefits to those wise enough to recognize its gifts. The plant has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties.

Cleanses the lymphatic system

Cleavers helps to reduce water weight and edema by cleansing and stimulating the lymphatic system. This reduces swelling in glands, tissues and cysts. Cleavers is naturally diuretic making it an excellent tonic for the kidneys and urinary tract. Its cleansing and flushing effect is good for the whole body as it detoxifies and purifies the blood.

Has cooling properties

This herb reduces fevers and helps to prevent heat strokes during hot summer months. Its cooling properties calm inflammation, within the body and on the skin. Cleavers even takes the sting out of sunburns.

Heals wounds and skin irritations

Fresh cleavers leaves provide relief from cuts, wounds, rashes and bug bites. Lightly crush the leaves and apply to soothe skin redness, swelling and irritation.

Cleavers’ antiseptic properties help to treat the skin conditions eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Use tinctures or teas to begin treatment from within the body, while using a cleavers wash to soothe the skin.

Improves liver function

By stimulating the liver, cleavers improves digestion and the elimination of toxins from the body. It is also effective in treating ulcers, bladder inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome.

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Creating Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Fresh cleavers leaves are delicious added to salads or included in a steamed greens meal. The herb is available for purchase as a tincture and a dried tea.

The easiest way to enjoy the health benefits of cleavers is to gather it in your yard or another place free from herbicides and chemicals.

Cleavers tea can be served as a hot drink or as a cold water infusion. My studies suggested that the cleavers cold water infusion provided slightly more benefits that a hot tea. I loved the idea of making a something different from my typical hot herbal tea.

I gathered cleavers from my backyard. Truthfully, I almost waited too long to try this herb. I pulled up cleavers plants in early spring, clearing them from my garden. It was difficult to find the herb when I wanted it. Finally yesterday I located cleavers growing near the wood pile for the fire pit.

To create a cleavers cold water infusion, chop fresh cleavers plants and drop them into a tall mason jar. Cover with filtered water, screw on the lid, and allow water to steep in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, strain and serve.

Cleavers Cold Water InfusionCleavers cold water infusion, chilling in the fridge.

A Different Kind of Afternoon Tea

I sampled my cleavers water this afternoon, in place of hot herbal tea.

How did it taste?

I expected a slight bitterness but there wasn’t any. At least, the water did not taste bitter to me. However, I am very accustomed to herbal teas, without added honey for sweetener. The cleavers cold water infusion had a mild green taste, but not like grass. The water was refreshing and satisfying, more like cucumber infused water or one made with aromatic herbs.

Cleavers infused water gets a thumbs up from me. I have enough water left over to enjoy a cup tomorrow. And a few more plants in the backyard, that escaped my earlier weed pulling frenzies. Next spring, I’ll leave more cleavers to grow in my garden. I recognize and appreciate their incredible value now.

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

If you are feeling adventurous, try out these other wild edible teas:

 

Order cleavers tincture or cleavers dried tea below:

 

 


 

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Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

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Everyone knows the importance of drinking enough water. And yet, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. By definition, dehydration occurs when more fluids are leaving the body, through sweating, breathing, urinating, defecating and crying, than coming in.

It seems simple enough to prevent dehydration. Just drink enough water. However, for many people, the thought of chugging glass after glass of water throughout the day is daunting. In addition, other drinks that we might reach for instead of water fail to satisfy thirst.  And they actually contribute to ongoing dehydration.

There are signs of dehydration, that indicate the body isn’t getting enough water. And fortunately, there are many ways to increase water intake, including consuming foods that hydrate.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

Signs of Dehydration

The following signs of dehydration are symptoms that indicate the body is not receiving enough water and/or is already chronically dehydrated:

  • constipation
  • dark urine
  • headaches
  • lightheadedness and dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • muscle cramps
  • rapid heartbeat
  • extreme thirst
  • less frequent urination
  • no tears
  • unsatisfied hunger
  • fatigue
  • low blood pressure
  • skin disorders
  • brain fog
  • irritability
  • kidney stones

These common symptoms are frequently attributed to other causes. We learn to shrug and put up with these signs of dehydration, missing what the body is trying to communicate. Severe dehydration can result in serious health issues, including organ failure.

Thankfully, rehydrating and staying that way is possible. The process takes consistency and awareness.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

Tips to Hydrate

There is varying information about how much water we need. However, a good guide is 72 ounces for adult women and 104 ounces for adult men. This is a general guideline. Exercising, working outdoors or warm temperatures may up the requirement for liquids.

The body responds quickly to consistent hydration with a lessening of symptoms.

To ensure adequate hydration, employ the following tips:

  • carry water at all times, in a metal or glass container, and refill throughout the day
  • drink at least one glass of water with every meal
  • increase water amount when exercising or outdoors in hot weather
  • juice fruits and veggies
  • start the day with a lemon or lime water, followed by a glass of freshly prepared celery juice for amazing health benefits (Want to know even more about this miraculous drink? Visit www.celeryjuice.com and pick up Anthony’s new book about celery juice HERE.)
  • include two or more cups of herbal teas during the day
  • keep a pitcher of infused water in the fridge, adding herbs, veggies or fruit for flavor
  • eat your water, with high water content foods

Juices are a great way to increase water consumption IF you make them at home or buy drinks that are organic and without added sugar. If warm weather discourages hot herbal teas, brew tea as usual and then chill or serve over ice.One of my favorite summer time drinks is Hibiscus Lemonade.

Have fun with infused waters. Add any combination of herbs, fruits and veggies. Try mint leaves with lime juice or sliced cucumbers and strawberries. You are more likely to drink infused water if it’s prepared and chilling in the fridge.

When dehydrated, avoid alcohol, black tea, soda, coffee and other caffeinated drinks. They don’t quench thirst. They actually rid the body of water, furthering dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

Foods that Hydrate

If the thought of drinking lots of water makes you feel bleh, add foods throughout the day that contribute to water intake. These foods not only restore balance to the body, they prevent future dehydration.

  • strawberries – 92% water
  • watermelon – 92% water
  • pineapple – 87% water
  • tomatoes – 94% water
  • radishes – 95% water
  • carrots – 90% water
  • zucchini – 95% water
  • cucumbers – 90% water
  • cantaloupe – 90% water
  • grapefruit – 88% water
  • kiwi – 85% water
  • peaches – 89% water
  • oranges – 88% water
  • lettuce – 96% water
  • celery – 95% water
  • bell peppers – 92% water
  • cauliflower and broccoli – 92% water
  • cabbage – 92% water
  • eggplant – 89% water

I’m not suggesting that drinking water be replaced with eating liquids! However, to give the body the crucial water that it requires, adding foods from this list helps to ease dehydration and keep the body adequately hydrated.

Challenge yourself, to see how many of the tips for hydrating you can work into a day. Create meals and snacks around the high water content foods. Although hydration is a serious matter, make a game of getting enough water throughout the day. Keep a water intake chart. Download an app. Involve the kids, who are just as chronically dehydrated as adults. Have family contests. Reward yourselves with fun mason jar glasses or colorful water bottles.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that HydrateCucumber, tomato, dill salad.

The Difference Hydration Makes

Chronic dehydration was my reality, for most of my life. I didn’t drink enough water. Instead, I sipped on diet sodas or iced teas. My body warned me, with symptoms such as dry mouth, headaches, muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness and no tears.

I felt thirsty most of the time, which is a classic symptom of dehydration. As the saying goes, if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. And yet I hated to drink very much water. Why? Because I didn’t want to be trotting off to the bathroom frequently. I actually hear this reason for avoiding water often. And I get it. However, it is the way the body is meant to work. Drink enough water and the body flushes toxins and fats, organs stay healthy and the digestive system works smoothly and efficiently.

One of the sweet surprises, after switching to a plant based diet, was realizing I no longer felt thirsty all the time. For the first time in my life, I felt hydrated. My symptoms went away.

What a difference enough water makes. My body thanks me for my diligence with improved health and wellbeing. Your body will thank you too.

Feeling thirsty, after reading this post? Good! Go get a glass of life giving water.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

 

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Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

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Ahhh, honeysuckle. That sweet scent transports me back to my childhood and long, hot summer days. The vine didn’t grow in my yard. However, the flowering plants covered the neighbors’ fence, across the street. In fact, honeysuckle covered one corner section of their yard, creating a small “secret garden”.  I’m grateful for the kindness of this dear couple. Looking out their window, they often spied me sitting quietly there in the corner, breathing in that tantalizing scent.

Later my grandfather, an avid gardener, nurtured a honeysuckle plant in his backyard. I brought home a start from that plant, as an adult with a yard of my own. Sadly, that plant did not thrive.

Now I have a honeysuckle vine, gracing a trellis near the front porch. It is a European variety, showing off cream colored blooms tinged with bright pink. Last fall, as I studied foraging for wild edibles, I discovered that fragrant honeysuckle flowers are suitable for tea.

I’ve patiently waited for spring and for my honeysuckle to bloom, so I can sip on my first cup of honeysuckle tea. Days of heavy rain finally gave way this afternoon to sunshine. To my delight, the first honeysuckle flower fully opened to the warmth.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Beyond its amazing scent, which has benefits as well, honeysuckle is a medicinal plant, used for thousands of years to boost health in a variety of ways. The flower has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Traditionally used in tea form, honeysuckle is available also as an essential oil.

Honeysuckle offers these impressive health benefits:

Powerful Detoxifier

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, honeysuckle tea is known as a natural way to remove heat and toxins from the body, making it an excellent tonic for the liver.

Heals Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Honeysuckle is an potent remedy for colds, flu symptoms, bronchitis, COPD, asthma, fever and pneumonia. The plant acts as an expectorant, helping to relieve congested air passages.

Relieves Digestive Disorders

This flowering plant is helpful in treating digestive disorders such as ulcers, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, Crohn’s disease, urinary tract disorders and pain and inflammation in the small intestine.

Improves Oral Health

Honeysuckle’s antibacterial and astringent properties improve gum health. Create a natural mouthwash by combining two cups of boiling water with half a cup of honeysuckle flowers and leaves. Let steep for at least five minutes. Remove flowers and leaves and allow mouthwash to cool completely before using. Gargle and swish in mouth daily.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Helps with Type 2 Diabetes

Studies show that honeysuckle decreases high blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance when used over a period of time.

Eases Arthritis and Auto-Immune Disorders

Honeysuckle’s powerful anti-inflammatory abilities bring relief to those suffering from arthritis symptoms. The plant shows promise in helping those with auto-immune disorders also, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, bursitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Heals Skin Infections

Native Americans boiled fresh honeysuckle leaves and bathed skin wounds with the tea to prevent infection and speed healing. Today, honeysuckle oil is added to skin creams and ointments to help heal skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. Honeysuckle slows the aging process as well, fighting free radicals that damage the skin and cause wrinkles.

Aromatherapy

I’ve recently learned about the benefits of aromatherapy. Inhaling the sweet scent of the honeysuckle flower relaxes and calms the body. Further, the scent stabilizes mood, relieves stress and helps to prevent depression.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Possible Side Effects of Honeysuckle Tea

There are a few possible side effects with honeysuckle. It is not recommended for pregnant women or for young children. Because it regulates blood sugar levels, do not use honeysuckle tea if you are already taking medication for this condition. And there are a few people who are allergic to this plant and may experience mild skin irritation. Talk to your doctor before drinking honeysuckle tea, if you have concerns.

Preparing Honeysuckle Tea

Preparing the tea is simple:

If using fresh flowers, add two or three large blooms to a mug. Pour boiling water over the flowers, cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired.

When fresh flowers aren’t available, add 1 – 2 teaspoons dried honeysuckle to a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired.

I plucked that first honeysuckle bloom this afternoon, and added another that appeared close to blooming. After steeping in hot water for 15 minutes, I tried my first sip.

The freshly brewed tea was light green in color, with a delicate slightly sweet aroma. And the taste? Honeysuckle tea is similar to green tea, with a mild, earthy flavor. Although it doesn’t taste like honeysuckle smells, there is a distinct honeysuckle quality to it, a hint of flavor from that sweet nectar within the flower.

I enjoyed it very much!

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Tastes Like Summer

For me, honeysuckle tea tastes like summer. Inhaling the scent as I made tea, sipping on the hot liquid, had the same effect as sitting in the secret garden created by those fragrant vines. I felt peaceful and full of joy, centered and whole.

I could easily see back through the passage of time, to my younger self, sitting happily in that corner garden, thinking big thoughts and watching the bees dance among the honeysuckle flowers. In my imagination, she turned to look at me. I raised my cup of honeysuckle tea in acknowledgement and appreciation.

She smiled.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Want to experience another wild edible tea? Try Sweet Violet Tea.

Check out Lowe’s Garden Center, for a variety of honeysuckle plants.

And you can order dried honeysuckle by clicking on photo below:


 

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Vegan Black Bean Brownies

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I know, I know. Black bean brownies? The title of the blog post gives away the secret ingredient in these rich and decadent vegan brownies. I’ve looked at posts and Pinterest recipes for black bean brownies. I finally found one, thanks to Chocolate Covered Katie, with a wholesome, easy to follow recipe. The ingredients are staples that I keep on hand. I felt ready to give these flour free, refined sugar free, egg and dairy free treats a try.

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Rich chocolate brownies with no flour, refined sugar, eggs or dairy.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
10 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Vegan Black Bean Brownies
Servings: 9 squares

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, sweetened with stevia

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8x8 baking dish.
  • Combine all ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in a food processor. Blend well until completely smooth.
  • Stir in dark chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top, if desired.
  • Bake 15 minutes. Let brownies cool at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Makes 9 - 12 servings.

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Can You Taste the Black Beans?

I prepared this special treat quickly this evening. While the black bean brownies cooled, I brewed a cup of lemon balm tea, with fresh herbs from the garden. Greg knew I was preparing a new dessert recipe, however I didn’t tell him what the ingredients were. I wanted him to taste the brownies first.

The black bean brownies smelled wonderful as they baked. I removed them from the oven after exactly 15 minutes and they were perfect.

After allowing them to cool for about half an hour, it was time for the taste test.

These black bean brownies are WONDERFUL! Rich, moist and full of chocolate flavor, I couldn’t taste the beans at all. Greg enjoyed two brownies, with a glass of almond coconut milk, and declared them very good.

Then, and only then, did I tell them about the secret ingredient. I have to say, I really appreciate that Greg is so willing to try new recipes. He thought the brownies tasted great and found that one or two satisfied him totally.

Vegan Black Bean Brownies Make the Cut

These brownies definitely go into my treat rotation. They are so quick to prepare and have a short baking time. I like too that the recipe makes a small batch of brownies. We primarily eat fruit for “dessert”. Even healthy snacks such as these brownies and Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are considered an occasional specialty rather than a frequent occurrence.

The vegan black bean brownies make a wonderful dessert for guests or a treat to take to a family gathering. No one will guess what the main ingredient is! However I feel good knowing I am contributing to everyone’s health while providing a delicious dessert.

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Order this food processor by clicking on the photo:


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Scents that Promote Wellbeing

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Curiosity inspired this post, Scents that Promote Wellbeing. I recently read that inhaling jasmine’s sweet and intoxicating scent has health benefits equal to taking sedatives and relaxants.

Intrigued, I researched the science behind the power of scents, known as aromatherapy.

I present the results of my study, with the top scents that promote wellbeing and health.

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

The Science of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves inhaling scents that stimulate the olfactory system, which includes the nose and the brain. Scent creates nerve impulses that travel to the limbic system in the brain. This region is most connected to survival, instincts and emotions.

Scent triggers emotional and physical responses, causing mood changes by altering brain chemistry.

We are familiar with these triggers. The scent of raw potatoes, for example, triggers memories of my mom buttoning up my coat as I headed outside to play. Her hands carried the homey scent of the potatoes she had peeled for dinner. Roses remind me of the perfume my grandmother wore. Both scents create feelings of love and the sense that all is well in my world.

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

The following scents possess powerful properties that help us feel better.

Lavender

Among scents that promote wellbeing, this versatile herb ranks high for calming and soothing the mind and body. Lavender reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, relieves headaches and relaxes the body into sleep.

Cinnamon

Derived from the inner bark of trees in the Cinnamomum family, this spice sharpens the mind and improves balance and motor skills. Cinnamon is especially helpful for drivers. The scent reduces fatigue and road rage while increasing alertness. Cinnamon stimulates the central nervous system, enhancing performance and motivation.

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

Peppermint

One of the most beneficial herbs, peppermint’s distinctive scent boosts concentration, instills confidence  and clarifies thoughts and emotions. Peppermint relieves stress while easing fatigue and eliminating chocolate cravings!

Citrus

The tangy scents of lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit energize the mind and body and boost mood. Citrus regulates hormones, supports the immune system and eases depression and anxiety. Often included in household cleaners, that citrusy scent ramps up the joy we feel as we clean house. Clever, huh?

Vanilla

This warm and seductive scent, derived from the vanilla bean, elevates mood while reducing anxiety. Vanilla eases fatigue, induces calmness and soothes an upset stomach.

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

Jasmine

The scent from this beautiful flower has powerful properties. Jasmine eases depression, lowers anxiety and improves cognitive function. Like lavender, jasmine quiets the mind and relaxes the body into sleep. Recent studies of the benefits of this plant provide evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy.

Apple

I’m familiar with the many health benefits of the simple apple. However, inhaling the scent of this fruit reduces the symptoms of headaches and shortens the duration of migraines. Amazingly, the crisp, tart scent of an apple triggers hormones that signal the body that hunger is satisfied.

Sage

Known as an aromatic herb, inhaling sage’s characteristic scent reduces blood pressure, slows respiration and relaxes the body. Sage eases stress while improving memory and attention.

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

I’m fascinated by my findings and yet not surprised to discover the power of aromatherapy. Scents are strongly connected to emotions and memories. They possess the ability to shift brain chemistry and create positive changes in the body as a result.

Essential oils are one way to receive the benefits from aromatherapy. Apply one or two drops of lavender or citrus essential oils to a cotton ball and inhale the scent. Or add drops to a bowl of hot water or to a diffuser. Allow the diffuser to run for 15 to 60 minutes. Connect with my friend Marijo to learn more about Young Living Essential Oils.

Other ways to enjoy increased wellbeing through aromatherapy include:

  • inhale the scent from fresh apples, lemons, sage, peppermint, lavender and jasmine for several minutes
  • keep a potted lavender, sage or jasmine plant in the house
  • add sticks of cinnamon and vanilla beans to a pot of water simmering on the stove
  • create sachets filled with dried sage, peppermint, lavender or jasmine
  • brew tea from fresh or dried sage, peppermint, lavender or jasmine and inhale the scent from the steaming cup

I keep a tiny lavender filled pillow on my bedside table. The words “this is bliss” are printed on it. Eyes closed, preparing to sleep, I love to hold it beneath my nose and breath in deeply. As I inhale, I breath in calm, peace and relaxation. I exhale any stress from the day, tension and busy thoughts.

This is bliss, indeed.

Scents that Promote Wellbeing

Click photo below to order lavender sachet kits.

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This post is linked on Senior Salon #20

Steamed Apple Dessert

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Since completed the liver cleanse, as detailed in the book, Liver Rescue, one of my ongoing goals is to eat three apples a day. I’ve mostly enjoyed a sliced apple or two with afternoon tea and another one as an after dinner snack. Occasionally I combine apples with other fruits or veggies to create a freshly prepared blended juice.

This evening I came up with another way to meet my apple quota, using the pressure pot. Simple, nutritious and delicious, the steamed apple dessert was a perfect after dinner treat.

Steamed Apple Dessert

Steamed Apple Dessert

Steamed Apple Dessert
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Steamed Apple Dessert

Easy to prepared steamed apple dessert, sugar and gluten free.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Steamed Apple Dessert
Servings: 2
Author: journeywithhealthyme

Ingredients

  • 4 apples
  • 1/2 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp raisins optional
  • 2 tbsp walnuts optional

Instructions

  • Wash, core and slice apples, leaving the peeling on. Place sliced apples in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, combine organic maple syrup and cinnamon.
  • Pour maple syrup mixture over sliced apple, mixing to coat.
  • Add 1/2 water to bottom of pressure pot. Arrange apple slices on steamer rack.
  • Cover pressure pot and lock lid into place. Select steamer option. Steam for 5 minutes. Release steam manually.
  • Serve steamed apple slices with organic raisins and walnuts if desired.

Steamed Apple Dessert

Simple Goodness

The steamed apple dessert took less than 10 minutes to prepare. Warm and fragrant, the apples tasted like the filling in apple pie, but without the sugar.

I added a spoonful of organic raisins and a few walnuts. What a great after dinner treat. These steamed apples could top banana ice cream or gluten free oatmeal as well.

Apples, red skinned apples especially, provide powerful benefits. They play a crucial role in fighting inflammation of all kinds. Apples calm the systems of the body by reducing viral and bacterial loads that contribute to inflammation. In addition, the phytochemicals in apples feed the neurons of the brain and increase electrical activity. That makes them brain food! Apples also cleanse the liver and help to dissolve gallstones.

I am determined to do more than eat an apple a day, to keep the doctor away. If one is good for my health, three are even better. To that end, I’ll be enjoying steamed apple dessert frequently, as a lovely and tasty tribute to all the goodness in this amazing fruit.

Steamed Apple Dessert

You can purchase a pressure pot, also called an instant pot, by clicking on the photo below.

 

 

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Herbal Teas that Relieve Bloating

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A reader recently made a request. She asked about herbal teas that relieve bloating. I’m happy to respond with a post that offers help.

Bloating is a condition in which the abdomen feels uncomfortably full. Triggers for bloating include:

  • intolerance to dairy, gluten, high protein or high fiber
  • build up of gas
  • intestinal bacteria out of balance
  • constipation
  • parasites

Up to 30% of the population experiences bloating, the majority as a result of food intolerance. If this discomfort is a problem for you, check out these herbal teas that relieve bloating.

Herbal Teas that Relieve Bloating

Peppermint

The use of this herb for healing the digestive system dates back to ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. Peppermint relieves bloating, gas, constipation and other digestive disorders by relaxing the gut and calming intestinal spasms. It is especially helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Steep 3 teaspoons of fresh or dried peppermint in a cup of very hot water for 15 minutes.

Lemon Balm

A member of the mint family, lemon balm has a pleasant lemony scent and flavor. This herb possesses antiviral, antibacterial and sedative properties. It’s a digestive stimulant as well. As a tea it soothes indigestion, nausea and bloating. Many people suffer with sensitive stomachs and guts. Lemon balm soothes and calms the nerve receptors in the digestive tract and reduces inflammation so that the nerves become less sensitive. It is also anti-parasitic.

Add 2 – 3 teaspoons of fresh or dried lemon balm leaves to a cup of boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes.

 

Herbal Teas that Relieve BloatingFresh lemon balm

Fennel

One of the most widely used herbs in the world, fennel seeds are used to treat many ailments, including stimulating the digestive system. The plant with the slight licorice scent and taste eases the discomfort of gas while stimulating bile for better digestion. And better digestion means less risk of bloating.

To make fennel tea, steep 1- 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes.

Chamomile

A member of the daisy family, this herb contains flavonoids and terpenoids that provide medicinal properties. Chamomile relaxes the digestive system, relieving the discomfort related to bloating. The herb also treats gassiness, indigestion and nausea, which commonly accompany bloating.

Use 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried chamomile flowers to make tea, steeping them for 15 minutes in a cup of boiling water.

Ginger

The healing power of ginger has been used for thousands of years to cure a host of digestives problems. The root of the plant contains bioactive compounds that ease bloating quickly. Ginger stimulates the digestive system, eases nausea and soothes acid reflux. It also fights against pathogens in the gut.

Peel a 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger and slice into slivers. Steep in a cup of boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes.

Herbal Teas that Relieve Bloating

Dandelion

Although considered a weed, this powerful little plant makes a great herbal tea that relieves bloating. Dandelion flowers stimulate the digestive system and have a cleansing effect on the intestines, eliminating bloating.

Gather a handful of fresh dandelion flowers, in an area free from chemicals, pollution and herbicides. Steep flowers in hot water for 15 minutes. Or cover flowers with water and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Strain out flowers and sip on dandelion water throughout the day.

Lavender

This very versatile herb originated in the Mediterranean. It’s been used medicinally for centuries. Drinking lavender tea eases digestive problems that cause bloating, including gas, an upset stomach, abdominal pain and swelling. Lavender also stimulates a sluggish appetite, which can accompany bloating.

Pour boiling water over 2 – 3 teaspoons of fresh or dried lavender flowers. Steep for 15 minutes.

Herbal Teas that Relieve Bloating

Additional Tips to Ease Bloating

Bloating is a symptom, indicating the digestive system is sluggish or reacting. Consider eliminating dairy, gluten, high protein and high fiber, one at a time, for a week. Notice whether bloating is relieved or improved.

I talk to people every day who want to feel better. However, they don’t want to give up their “favorite” foods, even though those foods are making them feel bad. Many people have a dairy or gluten intolerance and don’t realize it. Stop eating those foods, for a short time, to confirm whether that’s the case or not.

Eliminating those problem causing foods reduces gas build up and restores digestive health. Drinking herbal teas increases water consumption, which helps to ease constipation. Turmeric balances gut flora. And adding raw organic honey to herbal teas that relieve bloating adds an anti-parasitic property to the drink.

The herbal teas ease bloating, and improve health and wellbeing, while you discover the underlying cause. Be sure to check in with your primary care physician also.

Here’s to enjoying health, at every age!

Herbal Teas the Relieve Bloating

Visit my Amazon Storefront to order herbal teas and tea supplies.

 

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20 Easy to Implement Health Tips

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I’m asked questions, daily, about health. Some want to know how I’ve improved my wellbeing. Some wonder what I eat. Others are dealing with ailments and illnesses. They hope for healing and an improved quality of life.

Very few are willing to make the choices that I have made, that led to incredible changes in my life. However, that’s okay. People must make their own choices. Often, it takes being in a drastic situation to make a drastic change in lifestyle.

For those who want to shift their health gradually, or take small steps toward greater wellbeing, pick and choose through these 20 easy to implement health tips. Try one or two…or try them all.

20 Easy to Implement Health Tips

20 Easy to Implement Health Tips

Keep a Well Stocked Pantry

One major way to avoid the fast food trap is to keep a well stocked pantry. At the end of a long day it’s easier to drive through Taco Bell rather than face the daunting task of figuring out what to fix at home, unless food is readily available. Your definition of a well stocked pantry may differ from mine, but good options include canned goods, pasta, marinara sauce, fresh veggies, spices, rice and beans. In minutes a healthy, wholesome meal can be prepared, saving money while improving health.

Cook at Home

Following on the above tip, cooking at home ensures knowing exactly what you are eating. There are no hidden additives or fillers or calories. I recently read an interesting Cambridge study that found that those who cook and eat at home at least five days a week are 47% more likely to still be alive ten years later!

Prep Food

Another tip for making meals quickly is to prep food ahead of time. You don’t have to spend all day Sunday getting ready for the next week. Spend an hour or two doing the following:

  • chop veggies to have on hand for salads, stir fries, soups, veggie bowls and for roasting (cut a variety of veggies to uniform size, add 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil and spices of choice, roast for 40 minutes in 400 degree oven)
  • wash and prep berries and store in refrigerator to use in berry bowls and to top banana ice cream, oatmeal or gluten free pancakes
  • meal planning is a great way to make sure you are using the food you purchase and making the most of seasonal produce and sales
  • batch cooking soups, chilis, sauces and rice dishes puts meals in the fridge ready to reheat and eat.

Use a Pressure Pot

This handy appliance is great for preparing healthy meals quickly. Brown rice cooks in 25 minutes. Keep cooked rice or quinoa in the fridge, ready to add to stir fries and other recipes. The steam option on the pressure pot perfectly cooks fresh veggies in minutes, creating a vegetable bowl full of goodness in under 15 minutes.

Cook with a Slow Cooker

Another great kitchen appliance is the slow cooker. Prepare a pot of pinto or black beans to have on hand for salads, rice and bean dishes and veggie bowls. A great, simple recipe for slow cooker beans: soak 2 cups of beans overnight. Drain and rinse. Add to slow cooker along with 1 diced onion, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 6 cups of water, 1 teaspoon chili seasoning and 1 teaspoon cumin. Cook 7 – 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.

20 Easy to Implement Health Tips

Use Smaller Plates

To help with portion control, use smaller plates and bowls. They look full when food is added, rather than using a large plate that’s half filled with small portions. It’s all about perceptions and beliefs. A full plate makes us feel better.

Is it Hunger?

Wondering if you are hungry or experiencing a craving? Think of eating an apple. If you are truly hungry, an apple sounds good. If it’s a craving, it doesn’t. Don’t feed cravings.

Stay Hydrated

Most people are chronically dehydrated. And the body can actually confuse thirst with hunger. To stay hydrated tote water in a fun water bottle. There are all kinds of playful or practical water bottles available. There are even apps that help you track your water intact, like Plant Nanny, which combines drinking enough water with a cute online game.

Keep Lemon Water in the Fridge

At home, keep a pitcher or jug of lemon, lime or lemon/lime water prepped in the fridge. Lemon water has many health benefits. It’s a great drink to start the day with. Sip 8 to 12 ounces right after waking, on an empty stomach, to help the liver purge toxins and to wake up the digestive system. Warm the water or drink it cool.

Eat Meatless Meals

Among health tips, this one is well known. Most people are aware of Meatless Monday. Try enjoying meatless meals two times a week, minimum. Build those meals around beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa and vegetables. People who eat meat are more at risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Give the body and the digestive system a break. When you do include meat opt for smaller, leaner cuts.

20 Easy to Implement Health Tips

Cover Your Plate with Veggies and Healthy Grains

If meat is on the menu, let it occupy no more than one quarter of that smaller plate you are using. Fill half of the plate with vegetables and the remaining quarter with brown rice or quinoa.

Eat More Whole Foods

Studies show that a whole food diet reduces the risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and cognitive decline. Even if you don’t choose to embrace a 100% plant based lifestyle, including more whole foods, more vegetables and fruits, has tremendous benefits.

Make Substitutions

Another easy tip is to switch this for that. Try plant based milks instead of dairy. Substitute gluten free pasta for wheat varieties and sugar free marinara sauce for spaghetti sauce with added sugar. When baking, exchange eggs for flax eggs (1 tablespoon of flax seeds plus 3 tablespoons of water. Let set for 5 minutes before using.) And Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise is a wonderful and healthy alternative to mayo. Make substitutions a game, knowing every little healthy exchange helps.

Carry Your Own Snacks

Headed to a birthday party or a football game? Carry in your own snacks. It is easier to resist sugar laden birthday cake or that absolutely no good for you hot dog if you have something else to eat. Take along containers of sliced apples or grapes, a bunch of bananas, nuts or cut up veggies. I’ve attended family birthday parties and enjoyed my own healthy goody plate while others ate cake and ice cream. I didn’t feel left out or deprived at all. My motto is, “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”

Grow Your Own Food

Create a small garden or a raised bed garden and grow your own vegetables. There is something magical about tucking a tiny plant into the ground, caring for it, and reaping the benefits of fresh produce. Start with a tomato plant or bell pepper plants, whatever you enjoy. These fresh vegetables taste better than anything you can buy, and they are so good for you. If you can’t grow your own, find a nearby farmer’s market to visit, for fresh produce. Just ask about GMO products and the use of chemicals and pesticides. You don’t want to consume those!

20 Easy to Implement Health TipsThis was my snack plate, at a birthday party. I brought my own fruits and my gracious family provided additional foods that they knew I could eat.

Anti-inflammatory Juice

Try this delicious juice blend if inflammation causes pain in joints: Run through a juicer 6 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 1 cup fresh pineapple and 1/2 of a lemon. Add a 1 inch piece of fresh turmeric through the juicer or add 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric to juice blend. Bromelain in the pineapple combines with curcumin in the turmeric to create a natural anti-inflammatory that helps painful joints.

Make Juice at Home

Rather than purchasing juice, which can contain sugar or additives, create your own juice at home. There are so many vegetables and fruits that can be combined to make healthy and delicious juices. Try a combo of cucumber, apple and pear. Or juice together spinach, tomatoes and celery. I use this juicer.

Drink Celery Juice

Of all the health tips, I’d recommend this one for everyone: drink a glass of freshly prepared celery juice every morning, after the lemon water and before breakfast. Read about the benefit of celery juice here. This miraculous elixir is changing the health of people around the world. Celery juice began my journey toward improved health and led me to a plant based lifestyle. Anthony William has a new book coming out this month, dedicated entirely to celery juice and its benefits. Preorder it HERE.

Park the Car Farther From the Store

When out running errands, park the car farther from the store. Doing this multiple times while checking tasks off of the to do list provides mini walks throughout the day. It’s an easy way to get more steps in and we all know how beneficial walking is.

Find a Health Buddy

It is so encouraging to have a health buddy. Ask a friend or a family member to join you in creating better health habits or in coming up with health tips and practices of your own. Walk together, shop for groceries together, meet for meal prep or to batch cook or to chop veggies. Hold each other accountable. And be available to each other for encouragement, support, questions and victories. Celebrate each health improvement together…just not with cake!

Greg and my mom both joined me in my quest for better health. They are encouragers and they both shifted out of old ways of eating. As a result, both experience improved health and vitality as well. I’m grateful for their companionship on this journey.

It’s a Lifestyle

I hope these 20 easy to implement health tips encourage you to make small changes in your daily habits. These are not diet tips. Caring for health and well being is a lifestyle that continues on, not a temporary change with temporary results.

May these simple tips create the desire to learn more and become the healthiest version of yourself.

I’d love to hear about your health tips! Share them with me in the comments below.

20 Easy to Implement Health Tips


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