This Honey and Almond Butter Toffee were what I call a happy mistake. I was experimenting in the kitchen, and this was an instant hit.

I try to make my desserts and treats. That way, I know what’s in them and don’t have to worry about any unnecessary ingredients. This recipe uses just two ingredients and takes minimal effort to make. Then, the magic happens in the pot.

Honey

Honey is touted as a healthier alternative to sugar. But if you read my blogs (Part 1 & Part 2) on honey, you will know that the heating process degrades any health component. And, sugar is still sugar, even if it is natural. But we are now in the land of treats and desserts, so as long as we are responsible about eating it in moderation, there is no reason not to enjoy this delicious treat.

Almonds

Almond butter is easy to make (as are all nut butters) and tastes fantastic in this combo. Almonds are also popular as they are little nuggets of nutrition. Rich in Vitamin E, Manganese and Magnesium, they take this treat from being all about sugar and make it ever so slightly more nutritious. Also, as you are not heating the almond butter (just mixing it with cooled honey), the nutrients aren’t broken down.

Safety

If the kids are helping, please ensure they are carefully supervised – especially while the honey is being prepared.

 

Honey & Almond Butter Toffee

A simplified toffee recipe using just two ingredients!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time2 mins
Resting Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 12 mins
Course: Dessert, Treat
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 16
Calories: 84kcal
Author: Dawn

Equipment

  • Candy Thermometer optional
  • Saucepan deep
  • Spoon
  • Electronic Scale
  • Parchment Paper optional
  • Loaf Pan or flat dish

Ingredients

  • 150g Honey
  • 150g Almond Butter
  • Coconut Oil for greasing

Instructions

  • Line dish with parchment paper or lightly grease with coconut oil
  • Place honey in sauce pan with candy thermometer and set heat to medium
  • Allow honey to boil until it reaches 120˚C
    - no candy thermometer - no problem. have a cup of cold water handy. When the honey is boiling, drop some (just a drop) into a cup of cold water, if it makes a ball and sinks then it’s ready
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for a bit (±1min)
  • Add almond butter to the pot and stir until the mixture becomes toffee like and forms a ball (2-3min)
    - you should be able to handle the mixture without it sticking to your fingers
  • Place mixture in the loaf tin or dish or your choice
    - you may have to bang the tin/s on the counter to level out the mixture
  • Leave to cool for about an hour, then cover and refrigerate for 1 - 2 hours
  • Remove from fridge, cut into toffee size blocks and serve (can be individually wrapped in parchment or wax paper for gifting)

Notes

Substitutions: Use a nut or seed butter of your choice. (Different nut and seed butters have different textures. End results - taste and texture - may vary)
More Flavour: Add choc chips, chilli flakes, dried orange rind, botanicals, ginger, vanilla, course sea salt, whole nuts… you decide.
Storage: Store in airtight container, in between layers of parchment or wax paper. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. (It sets more & gets better the longer you leave it in the fridge)
Nutrition Note: Remember this is a treat and should be eaten sparingly and mindfully.
A Word on Honey: Honey heated to 40˚C – 50˚C no longer has any healthy enzymes and is therefore just a sugar. For this particular recipe, you may want to use a cheaper brand that may have been pasteurized. It is always prudent to check that the honey you purchase is sustainably sourced and from a local supplier.
Some cheaper brands are blended with substances that are called adulterants and should be avoided. Adulterants include substances like high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, flour and starches.
Hives that are kept in unsavoury conditions require antibiotics and fungicides and may contain contaminants like pesticides and pollutants or even thinned out with water.

Previously we looked into how bees made honey and some environmental issues. It was clear that honey is not without some controversy. However available and commonplace it seems to be across the world, it is something that we need to take notice of and consider.

In Part 2, we will talk a little more about the health and usage of honey. Depending on your health practices/beliefs, you may consider using honey as anything from a firm ‘no thanks to thinking honey to be the elixir of life. Love it, hate it or avoid it; it’s a fascinating substance. But, as I said in Part 1, a single blog (or two) doesn’t even scratch the surface on health and cooking information.

Let’s Get The Sugar Thing Out The Way

The composition of honey is quite complex. It has over 20 different types of sugars that fall under two main categories: glucose and fructose. Proportions vary depending on the source of the nectar. (As a general rule, sweeter kinds of honey have more fructose). Suppose you’re tempted to start reading up about the different sugars to determine their health benefits or effects, remember, regardless of the prevalent type of sugar. In that case, it all turns into glucose in your body. Honey is a potent energy source, and for those of you that are carb-conscious, it’s a no go sweetener. On the flip side, if you are looking for fat-free, low protein, honey is on the menu.

What about diabetics?

But what if you have diabetes? That is a very tricky question. A meta-analysis(i) of over 100 studies done in 2018 looked specifically at honey for preventing and treating various types of diabetes. A number of the studies showed clear benefits of honey; not all were specific to diabetes, but there was some promise. In addition, several studies were inconclusive or contrary. The conclusion – further studies were required, and dosage would have to be determined. That’s science for you – yes, no… maybe.

You decide

While I will not weigh in on whether a person with diabetes can or cannot use honey, it needs to be noted that there are other benefits to honey, unlike many other regular or processed sugars commonly available. If you are diabetic, pre-diabetic or have issues with sugar, then perhaps proceed with caution and make sure you are working with a health professional.

The Glycemic Factor

The Glycemic Index (GI) of honey is closely related to the combination of its sugar content and can range from 35 – 80.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI) then the quick answer is this – The GI level of food determines how quickly it spikes your blood glucose levels. The scale goes 1 – 100 and foods with a value of 55 or less are generally digested slower, therefore less likely to spike your blood glucose, therefore insulin levels.

Now you may think, ‘I’m not diabetic, so that doesn’t apply to me’, but think again. Insulin has a knock-on effect on adrenal and cortisol levels, growth hormones and more.

The GI level can be mitigated by what you eat with your honey. This is called a Glycemic Load (GL). By combining foods with a higher fibre and/or fat content, you can potentially lower the overall load of the meal. The idea is to slow down the metabolization of the food. Having honey in your tea versus having it on a seed cracker has a vastly different effect on your body. This is something to consider when deciding where to use honey in your diet.

Storage and Use

Before we get into the health benefits of honey, let’s make sure we aren’t destroying all that goodness while it’s sitting on our shelf.

Heat:  In part 1, I pointed out that the temperature was significant. This is because the healing enzymes of honey begin to deteriorate and are deactivated by heat. Therefore, honey should not be heated above 40˚C. (This needs to be noted when cooking or baking with honey). If you are using high heat, consider using cheaper or pasteurized honey as you are using it for flavour and not for nutrition. Pasteurized honey has been treated with high heat and is not as nutritious as raw honey.

Light: Like heat, light has the same effect on honey. Therefore, it is best kept in a dark environment or a dark container.

Shelf Life: Honey stored in well-sealed, dark glass containers has an indefinite lifespan. There have been vats found in Egyptian tombs dating back 4000 years. Still edible, still delicious. You want to avoid plastic containers for two reasons. The first obvious reason is its plastic and contaminating whatever is in it. The other is that plastic does allow in air. Air can darken the honey and even begin a small amount of fermentation.

Kitchen Hacks

  • When measuring out your honey for a recipe, coat your measuring spoon or cup with a bit of coconut oil first. The oil allows the honey to slide out without too much staying behind.
  • To make honey more pliable or runny. Warm thick honey by placing the container in some warm (not boiling) water for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Honey can caramelize like sugar. You will need to heat it to around 70˚C or higher.
  • Honey browns more quickly than sugar. Therefore, you may have to lower the oven temperature and cook longer when baking.

The Health Benefits(ii)

The Health Benefits Honey has been used as a healing balm and drink for millennia. Before the science and terminology were invented, honey was used as an antimicrobial and antibacterial agent. Today medical-grade honey is still being used. The most notable studies are now being done around its efficacy in life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A medical article(ii) published in 2011 listed the first written mentions of honeys medicinal properties as follows:

“a Sumerian tablet writing, dating back to 2100-2000 BC, mentions honey’s use as a drug and an ointment. Aristotle (384-322 BC), when discussing different honeys, referred to pale honey as being “good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds”

That same article concluded that after reviewing many studies, “Microbial resistance to honey has never been reported”. Therefore, honey is most useful in medicinal use as a topical application. However, this does not mean you get to bypass the doctor if you have a wound. The use and application of medicinal honey are made under strict medical supervision and dosage for these purposes. What this does is validate the healing abilities of honey.

What about when we eat it?

Honey has many health aiding benefits and can be a valuable addition to a healthy diet. However, we must remember:

  • It is still a sugar
  • Where you get it from is important
  • How you store it and use it impacts its health benefits
  • Bees are crucial to our survival as a species, so be responsible when using honey

References

Try this recipe


Honey & Almond Butter Toffee
A simplified toffee recipe using just two ingredients!
Check out this recipe

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various tubs of honey

During my workshops, I often hear fascinating discussions around certain foods. Usually as a result of a recent expose, show or book. Unfortunately, as is the norm, the information is often conflicting. This either creates debate or, in most cases, leaves everyone a little confused.

Hot topic

Honey is a recurring subject, and these discussions aren’t even bound to the workshops. For example, we stopped at a popular coffeehouse to stretch our legs and have a little snack during a recent road trip. I ordered rooibos tea, and the waiter brought over a bottle of honey with it. At the same time, they were delivering waffles to the next table with a honey bottle.

Is it real?

My first instinct was to read the label, which happened to have the tiniest writing on it. Needless to say, I was concentrating very hard, and this must have perked everyone’s interest around me. But, as I suspected, it was not pure honey. The front of the bottle said it was irradiated, and the back showed its place of origin was very vague. Product of South Africa and/or China and/or India and/or Zambia. Mmmm, definitely going to give that a pass. As I put the bottle down, I heard the ‘waffle table’ ask, “And? Is it real honey?”. The couple two tables down also wanted to know, so a cross-restaurant discussion about honey began. The debate usually narrows down to these areas:

  • if sugar is bad – does that mean honey is bad?
  • is honey vegan or not?
  • is beekeeping a humane practice?
  • what happens if all the bees die?

Yup, just some light-hearted coffeehouse talk, I suppose. But I’m not here to debate the heavy stuff. So instead, I will share some interesting information about honey and let you decide.

Honey is a big topic

Honey is a vast topic, and not even two blogs will do it justice. I have collected what I believe to be the most salient information and divided it into two sections. Part 1 I cover some overall information about honey Part 2 I will focus on the health factors and use in the kitchen I recommend you take this further and do extra research or contact your local apiary community. The more you know, the better – it counts!

A Bit of History

It appears honey has been around for longer than humankind. Just recently, Science Daily published an article about a 100 million-year-old bee found fossilized in amber[i].  Honey is also deeply entrenched in our language. Think – honeymoon, such a honey, be a honey. Or look to the bible for the land of milk and honey. There is little doubt it has been around for a long time. And, as the terrain of humankind evolved, so too did honey. Like most of our food from mother nature, it used to be a wild resource. As man developed, so did the procurement and production all the way to the point where we have industrialized apiaries.

FUN FACT: Antarctica – the only continent that has no bees[ii]

The Nectar To Honey Conversion

Stretching your memory back to school science, you may recall that bees are attracted to the nectar and pollen of plants. So they fly very long distances to find and collect it. First, they collect the nectar in their honey sac (fancy word for second stomach). Then, they haul it back to the hive, where it’s passed (regurgitated and fed) to the house bees. This seems pretty gross, but the enzymes in that second stomach and the passing over phase are part of the magic that will eventually be honey.

Here Be Gold!

The enzymatically rich nectar is then deposited into the honeycomb, where there is an evaporation process. Bees do this by fanning their wings and keeping the hive at 28-35°C. (Remember this part – it’s important). Once over 80% of the water has evaporated, it has become honey.

What We Get

Bees make extra honey for their winter stores or in times of scarcity. It’s this excess honey that beekeepers will harvest. During scarcity or winter, the queen and about 10 000 drones will stay in the hive and evict the rest. Effectively causing them to starve as they no longer have access to honey and various other food sources. Beekeepers are aware of this and implement several strategies to ensure the survival of colonies and honey production. This may include moving the hives to more abundant or warmer areas.

Now all this may seem pretty straightforward, the beekeepers set up a few hives, the bees do their thing, and we all live happily together, right? Not so much. What started as a few doomsayers saying we need to pay closer attention to the world’s bee population has become a legitimate concern.

Bees and Food Security

In May 2019, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), during its observation of World Bee Day, stressed that:

“Declining bee populations pose threat to global food security and nutrition”[iii].

If that statement doesn’t make you stop and think, I am not sure what will. (I urge you to read the article in full). The FAO’s Director-General went on to say the following:

“Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides use, biodiversity loss and pollution,”… “The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination. Countries need to shift to more pollinator-friendly and sustainable food policies and systems.”

To get the full picture listen to his talk here:

What Can We Do?

You won’t have to do too many Google searches to realize that about two-thirds of the food crops we rely on are dependent on bee pollination. But while we wait for Big Food, Big Politics and Big Commerce to make their glacial paced changes, we as the everyday person can make a difference. So if you decide you can’t do without out your honey fix or if you want to do your bit to help the bee population, then here are some suggestions on how to help:

  • Start with your home If you are able, grow bee-friendly plants. Avoid using pesticides, insecticides or any -cides that may harm the bees. Incorporate areas where they can get water. If your municipality allows for it, install some small bee hotels. This may seem a little scary and you may want to run and hide, but they are actually pretty cool once you get to know them.
  • Look at what and where you buy from Support your local apiaries that practice organic and humane beekeeping. Yes, I said humane. If you are going to mess with nature and trick it into producing more for profit, you need to fiddle with genetics, breeding, quality, chemicals and a host of other things. These are very seldom friendly to the species you are manipulating. This is an area you need to be diligent in and find out as much as possible – beekeeping is not for everyone. If you have somebody locally passionate enough to help the bee population – then support them!
  • Buy organic food So what does buying an organic apple have to do with bees? Many of the foods we see in our grocery stores are industrially grown. They require chemicals that kill not just bees but many other pollinators. So, you indirectly support one of the key sources of the declining bee population.

Whoa! I know that’s a bit harsh to say, but it is unfortunately true. There aren’t many nice ways to say this, so I may as well say it straight up. Unfortunately, not all of us have access to organically grown foods or can afford them, and we can only work with what we have. What we can do, is go to our providers and start asking or demanding. And, if the opportunity arises, you absolutely choose organic. If that is all you can do – honestly, it is better than nothing!

  • Rather say no Honey is everywhere, and it will remain everywhere as long as we drizzle it over our waffles, plonk it in our teas or support its use in our food chain. Personally, I avoid any product that has honey where I cannot establish its source and method. Sometimes, that may mean you pass on the honey baked dessert or have your tea minus the honey, but it goes back to the twig analogy: (if we are all doing it, we can make a difference).
A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong – Tecumseh

HONEY (part 2 of 2)

Like with all things in life, there is the dark and the light side, and you can consider this the dark side. We will look at the light side in the next instalment about honey. The amazing side of honey has kept it in our homes for all of humankind’s time here on earth.

References:

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I am often asked whether vitamin supplements are nothing but expensive Vitamin Pee? Unfortunately, it’s a good question but does not have a simple yes or no answer. It was also a question I struggled with for many years. 

A documentary/movie a few years back looked at the role, use, and sources of vitamins and supplements. It profoundly affected me and further validated that what we eat is key to our health. At the time, I was also questioning the use of supplements and how we seem to use them to bypass a less than ideal diet and lifestyle (the ‘health in a bottle’ principle). 

Supplements can be misunderstood or misused and lull us into a false sense of security if we are not responsible for their use. So what are some of the things we should know about vitamins? (The documentary/movie was Vitamania if you are interested).  

Supplements as a necessity 

Persons with diagnosed medical deficiencies, illnesses or conditions that prohibit nutrient absorption and taking particular medication that causes nutrient malabsorption may require precise and deliberate supplementation. Their lives may depend on it, and working with a qualified medical professional/s is essential. Again, however, this is a very specific group of people. 

Supplements as a booster 

The bulk of the supplement market targets the average person with the intent of ‘boosting’ your health status or dealing with ‘possible minor’ deficiencies. These words are in quotes on purpose as there is often no medical diagnosis or confirmation for their need or deficiencies. It is also primarily self-regulated. As for boosting, our immune system is running 24-7-365 days a year. It fluctuates according to many factors such as state of mind, diet, lifestyle choices, geographical and environmental influences. Boosting implies that you are elevating your immune system to a newer, better level when in fact, your efforts are at best temporary and massively dependent on the combined efforts you make both on and off your plate. 

The fire metaphor 

The fire metaphor, usually reserved for metabolism, visualises your immune system as the fireplace in your home running constantly and keeping the house warm. Maybe it’s burning a bit low, and you add an extra piece of wood. The fire flares up for a moment and then settles down again.

However, if the windows are all open, there is a blizzard outside, and all you are doing is throwing more wood on the fire – the result will be temporary and require more and more fuel, which isn’t an ideal situation. We all have different life challenges, but for some, the blizzard could be a stressful job or financial issues or (insert significant stressor in life).

The windows are your ability to regulate the effect the storm has on you and could include quiet time, a weekend away, or a walk on the beach to help you down-regulate that stress response. The wood could be your diet and, in this case, supplement regime. Exercise is exercise – carrying wood is a physical job, no metaphor required. 

Phew – that is a long metaphor, but I think you get the point. 

Vitamins from nature 

With access to a decent food supply, most of us should meet our daily vitamin intake with diet and only require supplements as the name intends – as a supplement. 

Eating a healthy balanced diet of whole natural foods is key to getting sufficient vitamins and nutrients. However, some diets require more effort to obtain the right amounts and may need supplementation. If you have doubts or are unsure, there are several professionals you could get to help you, depending on how in-depth you want to go.  

 

Natural sources are and should always be your first point of call. Our bodies respond well to good quality food and, barring any medical conditions know how to optimise its use. 

Here are some basic pointers to get you started. 

How many vitamins are there? 

There are 13.  

Yup, that was a bit of a shocker for me when I first found that out. But, somehow, I always associated vitamins with the periodic table. Not sure where that association comes from, but I’m guessing it’s probably from seeing rows and rows of bottles on the vitamin shelves.  

How many classes of vitamins are there? 

There are 2. 

Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble.  

Fat-soluble vitamins hang around in your fat cells and liver. They eliminate much slower from your body (up to 6 months for some). They can also build up and potentially cause toxicity when taking mega doses of supplements.  

Water-soluble vitamins are flushed out of systems quicker and need to be replenished often. You may have heard the expression – just making expensive urine (vitamin P). However, you can take a whole lot of a water-soluble vitamin; your body will use what it needs and the rest… expensive urine. 

How many vitamins are essential? 

There 11. 

Whenever a nutrient is essential, we need to get it from an external source or ingest it. The body makes Non-essential nutrients. The bacteria produce Vitamin K and Vitamin B7 (aka Biotin) in the gut. The rest we need from diet. 

What are they, and where do we find them? 

Now let’s move on to what they are and where we can get these life-giving vitamins in nature. (This is just a basic breakdown to help you see how a whole food natural diet can be such a – dare I say – boost to your immune system). The importance of vitamins to our overall health is vast and complex. The list below does not even begin to scratch the surface. 

Vitamin A 

Type: Fat Soluble 
Essential: Yes
Also known as:  Retinol from an animal source, beta-carotene from a plant source and converted in the body to vitamin A. identifiable as red or orange pigment in food
Source: liver, fish, butter, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Functions: antioxidant, immune health, skin health, sight 

Vitamin C 

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Powerful antioxidant
Source: berries, peppers, citrus, cabbage, cauliflower
Functions: used to make collagen, wound healing, skin health, keeping white blood cells active, helps the body absorb folic acid and iron effectively  

Vitamin D 

Type: Fat Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: sunshine vitamin
Source: mushrooms, cod liver oil, pilchards, sardines, the sun
Functions: bone health (controls calcium absorption), dental health, cardiovascular health
CAUTION: not to be given to children unless under strict medical supervision 

Vitamin E 

Type: Fat Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Tocopherol
Source: sunflower seeds, almonds, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocado
Functions: protection against free radicals, skin health, fertility, anticoagulant, helps control body temperature (mitigates hot flushes)  

Vitamin K 

Type: Fat Soluble
Essential: No
Also known as:  Phylloquinone or phytomenadione from a plant source, menaquinone from bacteria in the gut, menadione from a synthetic source
Source: fermented foods, leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, green tea, oats
Functions: assist with blood clotting, bone health  

 The vitamin B complex makes up the remaining vitamin range: 

Vitamin B1 

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Thiamin
Source: Brewer’s yeast, brown rice, organ meats, egg yolk 
Functions: essential for energy production, carbohydrate metabolism and nerve cell function  

Vitamin B2  

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Riboflavin
Source: Brewer’s yeast, liver, almonds, mushrooms, millet
Functions: converts food to energy, immune health, skin health 

Vitamin B3  

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes (disputed by some as the body can make its own)
Also known as: Niacin
Sources: Lean meats, poultry & fish, eggs, peanuts, sesame seeds
Functions: extracts energy from glucose, mental health, cardiovascular health  

Vitamin B5  

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Pantothenic Acid
Sources: Liver, peanuts, mushrooms, pecans
Functions: extracts energy from fats and carbohydrates, aids in manufacturing adrenal hormones and red blood cells  

Vitamin B6  

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Pyridoxine
Sources: Sunflower seeds, walnuts, lentils, salmon, pistachio nuts
Functions: nervous system, maintaining hormonal balance  

Vitamin B7  

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: No
Also known as: Biotin, Vitamin H, Co-enzyme R
Sources: peanuts, almonds, egg yolks, liver, unpolished rice, brewer’s yeast, sardines, legumes
Functions: skin health, metabolism  

Vitamin B9 

Type: Water Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Folic Acid
Sources: brewer’s yeast, black-eyed peas, liver, spinach, broccoli
Functions: cell division, critical to the nervous system development of fetus,  

Vitamin B12  

Type: Fat Soluble
Essential: Yes
Also known as: Cobalamin
Sources: organ meats, oysters, sardines, eggs. Small amounts are found in nori seaweed and tempeh.
Functions: nervous system, prevents anaemia, promotes growth 

Now For Some Vitamin Trivia:

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apples across a table top with a banner saying apples across the image

Apples are grown and eaten throughout the world and have been around forever. We love apples so much it’s in everything from fragrance, flavour, the shape of a perfume bottle and even the name of our electronics. Even the infamous slogan – an apple a day keeps the doctor away, which is more about eating healthy than the actual apple itself, but let’s not lose focus.

Apples are so commonplace we may actually overlook their benefits and take them for granted. When standing with the fridge door looking longingly for something ‘nice’ to eat, you will be forgiven for not noticing the pretty pile of apples on the centre table and the row on the fridge shelf. But, after all these years in our history, it remains an easy and crunchy dose of nutrition.

Apples are high in fibre (skin on for maximum benefit), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and now that we know more about the microbiome, there is that extra benefit of knowing that it is loaded with prebiotics which is massively beneficial to our gut health and therefore our overall health.

Let’s look at a few benefits these gems provide:

Antioxidant for anti-ageing… oh, and disease-fighting

The beauty industry has gone out of its way to let us know about the anti-ageing properties of antioxidants, and they aren’t wrong. Still, as I will repeatedly say in my blogs, diet is the best option if you want to optimize the absorption and benefits. Apples don’t just come with antioxidants; they have many cofactors that bring their own disease-fighting benefits to the table.

Apple vs Vitamin C Supplement

Antioxidant supplementation is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet the humble apple (and many other whole foods) go unnoticed (like the Cinderella of whole foods).

After a meta-analysis was done on numerous studies related to apples; this review compared the antioxidant activity between a 1500mg Vitamin C supplement to one apple (skin on), and, well, let’s just read what they wrote:

‘The total antioxidant activity of apples with the peel was approximately 83 μmol vitamin C equivalents, which means that the antioxidant activity of 100 g apples (about one serving of apple) is equivalent to about 1500 mg of vitamin C’

That same review lists the benefits in relation to cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma and pulmonary function, diabetes and the ever-popular weight loss topic.

Take a deep breath

Asthma is all too real for many of us, and we need to take it seriously. So why not add food to your diet that can help. For example, apples contain a component called ‘quercetin’ that has been attributed to helping lower the risk of asthma. Now I am not saying it will cure asthma, but if you are looking to create a lifestyle that deals with your health issues from all angles, including apples in your diet is a good place to start. Again the review mentions this specifically:

‘Flavonoid intake in general was associated with a lower risk of asthma, and the association was attributed mainly to quercetin, hesperitin, and naringenin’.

Keeping ’It’ Regular

Because of all that fibre and prebiotic goodness, apples help keep you regular and help avoid that nasty constipation that seems so common nowadays. (Now you know what ‘it’ refers to).

Constipation isn’t just an uncomfortable experience; if it’s happening a little too often, you definitely want to get it checked out. It could be a symptom of an underlying health problem or actually cause nasty things like haemorrhoids, Hiatal hernias, and varicose veins.

The Wrong Kind of Runs

You may think avoiding apples would be better if you have the ‘runs’, but that would be a mistake. They contain a binding ingredient called pectin. Not only is this the reason we use apple sauce as an egg substitute in baking, but that very same effect works in your intestine and helps keep things balanced. Applesauce made with the skin is a great home remedy used over the ages. Homemade applesauce is, of course, the best and the only sure-fire way to ensure it hasn’t been loaded with sugar and additives.

Hopefully, by now, I have convinced you to give apples another go and not let them go wrinkly and brown on the kitchen counter. But, if this is the case, I have a few extra pointers to help you.

So your choice is that you can have a tasteless supplement or a delicious crispy disease-fighting apple that will satisfy a craving or two and keep hunger pangs at bay – you decide.

Buying and Storing Apples

  • Buy organic where possible.
  • Check your apples before buying them and try to get them as unbruised and firm as possible. They should have a bright colour, no wrinkling and smell good.
  • As soon as you get home, be sure to give them a good rinse and dry them off well.
  • Store lose and on their own. In addition, apples give off ethylene gas which accelerates the ripening of produce.
  • Fresh apples can be kept in the fridge for a few months (they may not look as pretty, but they are still okay).
  • Use browned, older or bruised apples for applesauce or cooking – you won’t notice the blemishes and still get all the flavour and goodness.

Taking the boring out of apples

  • Apples served with a side of almond butter to dip in is a great snack and rich in boron;
  • Dice your apple and add to your oatmeal for extra flavour;
  • Sprinkle your apple with a bit of cinnamon and/nutmeg to spice it up;
  • Skip the cucumber and add some apple slices to your next sandwich (you will be surprised).

What about the Wax on Apples?

There have been videos going around showing warm water being poured over apples and a shockingly large amount of wax coming off the apples. This, of course, is very off-putting and may make you rethink your apple consumption. But here are a few things you should know:

Yes – some food chains do coat their apples with a wax mix. They do this to add shine and for longevity. The type of wax and how much they use depends on the supplier. Different blends include natural and synthetic ingredients. We are also assured that these are safe and do not harm us. Whether you believe this or not is up to you. Organic farmers seem to get by just fine without it?

At this point, you may be thinking, ‘ where did they get the idea to coat apples with wax’? Brace yourselves – nature. Yup, in nature, all species have built-in protection mechanisms, and apples are one of the fruits that actually produce their own protective wax-like coating. (The coating is called epicuticular or cuticle wax). Perfectly safe, and nothing a good rinse in vinegar water won’t sort out.

Apples really are a healthy ‘to-go go-to’ (that was fun to type) food. No extra packaging is needed.

So. before you give your farmer or organic fruit supplier the beady eye, ask them if they add wax or if it’s the natural version. In fact, check before assuming as not all fresh produce suppliers add wax.

Is it a thumbs up or thumbs down for apples?

All those interesting health benefits of apples aside, it’s a really versatile little fruit. If you find eating a whole apple a little boring, then my challenge is to incorporate it in other ways.

Is there a downside?

If you were to back me into a corner and ask me what’s one downside of apples? I would have to mention the seed. It contains trace amounts of cyanogenic glycosides. These glycosides release tiny amounts of cyanide when coming into contact with human digestive enzymes. Now before you panic! Please note that the author of this here article has eaten apple seeds since she was a child. Even my grandmother told me an apple tree would grow out of my stomach and through my ears. You would also need to eat and very finely chew a lot. I mean A LOT of seeds to do some damage. So maybe, don’t eat the seeds.

All in all, apples are a great addition to a nutritious diet – so thumbs up from me… how about you?

Try this recipe

Fennel, Apple and Ginger Juice
These ingredients combine to make a sweet and refreshing drink. Ginger, apple and fennel are all health promoting on their own, combined they are gut friendly and immune boosting. Perfect for a summer mocktail!
Check out this recipe
Fennel, Apple and Ginger with a juice

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Roasted cut mushrooms with sumac and spices

 

Not only are Mushrooms steeped in history and myth, but they are also nutritional powerhouses that can boost just about any meal. Everything from salads, sides and savoury breakfasts are excellent opportunities to add mushrooms. These salty sumac mushrooms are delicious when mixed with a green salad or with a bowl of quinoa, avocado and roasted peppers.

For this recipe, I added sumac (which I believe is a highly underutilised spice). Its tangy, citrusy flavour (similar to lemon) is often found in middle eastern cuisine or the spice mix za’atar.

A bonus is that, like mushrooms, early studies on sumac are showing it to contain oleic fats (the stuff that makes olive oil so healthy) as well as antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties.

This is a dish you can whip up in no time, so go ahead and enjoy.

Salty Sumac Mushrooms

Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses that can deliciously boost just about any meal. Use the roasted salty sumac mushrooms in salads, pasta or on toast
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 4kcal
Author: Dawn

Equipment

  • Oven
  • Roasting Pan

Ingredients

  • 250 g button mushrooms

Spice Oil Mix

  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp sumac spice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin

Instructions

Mushroom Prep

  • Heat the oven to 180˚C
  • While the oven is heating, wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth (stem included) - do not wash with water as this will cause too much moisture

Spice Oil Mix

  • In a small bowl add the olive oil, sumac, salt and pepper, mix well then set aside
  • Place the cleaned mushrooms in a roasting tray and drizzle with the spice oil mix
  • Make sure the mushrooms are evenly coated, use a little extra olive oil if necessary, but avoid drenching in oil
  • Spread the coated mushrooms across the pan loosely. Ensure they are not tightly packed or clustered.

Roasting

  • Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes
  • Remove and serve while warm

Notes

Serve with: pasta, as a topping on a salad, or as a side dish
Storage: best eaten straight away. As the mushrooms cool they will get soft, drain them on a paper towel stem side down, place in an airtight container and store in the fridge for a day 

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Fennel, Apple and Ginger with a juice

mushrooms

Mushrooms haven’t always been a favourite food of mine. But, as I learnt about their many nutritional qualities, I decided to give them another try. Fast forward a few years, and there has been some progress. I enjoy them as part of a meal or soup, but I’m not quite ready to dive into a large portobello. So, for now, I am happy eating button and cremini.

 FUN FACT: Eating mushrooms or fungi is known as mycophagy

Whether you are a fan or not, mushrooms have some fantastic qualities. Mushrooms are entrenched in human history. As far back as the Palaeolithic age, they have almost always been known for their medicinal qualities. The Egyptians of old believed they had powers of immortality, and commoners weren’t even allowed to touch them. As there were no seeds, mushrooms were known as ‘sons of gods’ mainly because no one could figure out how they propagated.

The Dark Side of Mushrooms

Of course, you cannot talk about mushrooms and leave out a crucial point – some of them are deadly! Over the era’s accounts of entire families succumbing to the poisons of incorrectly identified mushrooms have been reported. You would think we would be very hesitant to go out and pick wild mushrooms; think again. In the Czech Republic, it is an unofficial sport, and it’s estimated that around 70% of the population are annual mushroomers (pickers). It would be best to leave picking wild mushrooms to someone in the know.

What Kind of Mushroom

Our ancestors may have attributed the mushrooms divine origins based on superstition and simplistic beliefs, but with modern science, we have come to understand just how powerful they are. There are many different types of mushrooms. Each has varying degrees of health benefits; however, most of us are familiar with the small brown, white or cremini mushrooms commonly referred to as button mushrooms. These technically or botanically speaking are in the same family. Because they are so common, let’s focus on what they bring to the table nutritionally.

Minerals

Button mushrooms are an excellent source of minerals that are very important to our bodies. We use dietary minerals to grow and maintain our bones, tissues, and cells. Without healthy levels of minerals in our bodies, we may not be able to utilise vitamins correctly. Some minerals are required in small quantities (known as trace minerals), and others are needed in larger quantities.

Button mushrooms have selenium, copper, potassium and zinc.

Vitamins

Mushrooms, in general, are a good source of vitamin B, which is good news. Vitamin B’s are linked to energy levels and brain and cell health and are water-soluble. As they are water-soluble, we need to replenish regularly; adding mushrooms to your meals are a significant boost. Button mushrooms, in particular, have Vitamin B1, B2, B3 & B5.

Phytochemicals

Plants use phytochemicals to protect themselves against various elements and predators. You would think that phyto = fight, but it is Greek for plant. These plant chemicals are most notably known for their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help us fight free radicals that can cause cancer. There are a growing number of anticancer studies using mushrooms that are showing a great deal of promise(iv).

There is so much more to mushrooms than their nutritional value or how we choose to eat them. They even made a mushroom movie, which was pretty fascinating and well worth the watch:

Fantastic Fungi

PS: If you are a Star Trek fan like me, Star Trek Discovery uses a mycelial network to instantly travel across the universe. The fun part is that it is based on actual mushroom science!

Try this recipe


Salty Sumac Mushrroms
Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses that can deliciously boost just about any meal. Use these roasted salty sumac mushrooms in salads, pastas or on toast.
Make Me
salty sumac mushrooms

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magnesium rich foods surround the title magnesium

Like vitamins, minerals are an essential part of a healthy diet. They are responsible for the effective running of many crucial systems in your body. Some are needed in minute quantities and are called trace minerals. Others are required in larger quantities and are called macro-minerals. Therefore, minerals are also considered an essential nutrient.

Essential in a dietary context means your body does not make it, and you need to ingest it. 

Magnesium is an essential mineral and plays a vital part in our overall health. Here are ten things you should know about Magnesium before you stock up on the supplement. (I have tried to keep the information as straightforward as possible, but it is the human body, and the science stuff is unavoidable):

1)     What does Magnesium actually do? [i]

Magnesium is integral to several systems in the body:

  • cofactor in more than 300 *enzymatic reactions in the body
  • energy production,
  • crucial to the **Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) system
  • structural development of bone
  • synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione
  • transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes (associated with nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, heart rhythm)

*ENZYMATIC REACTIONS FOR THOSE OF US THAT DON’T KNOW BIOLOGY[ii] 
At any given time, there are thousands of chemical reactions taking place in your body. For these reactions to happen, you need enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for getting the chemical reactions started, speeding them up, and ensuring a consistent result. For example, enzymes break down proteins into amino acids; another enzyme will break down carbohydrates into glucose and other fats into fatty acids. When these reactions aren’t working correctly, it can affect our digestive system, bone and muscle health, blood pressure and many other essential components to maintaining health.

**THE ATP SYSTEM IN NUTSHELL… [iii] 
The ATP system is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms on earth. Without it, our bodies would not store energy metabolised from food and light sources.

2) How do we know if we have enough Magnesium in our body? [iv]

Seeing how important it is tempting to rush off and test your magnesium levels. Besides being difficult to test (you need a combination of clinical and laboratory tests), it is very pricey. A doctor may request these tests for certain medical conditions, but not readily if you simply want to know your levels. You should be fine if you eat a varied diet with a good selection of fresh produce (especially leafy greens, nuts, and seeds).

If you think you may have a deficiency or toxic levels, discuss it with your health care professional first.

3) How much Magnesium do we actually need?[v]

The Average recommended daily allowance (*RDA) is between 300-420 mg for adults. However, this is affected by age, gender, health status, diet, and environment. It is possible to overdose on mineral supplements. It is always prudent to check with a health care professional before upping the recommended dosing or beginning a supplement regime.

*RDA’s – RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCES [vi]  
RDA’s are simply an amount required to meet ±90% of an everyday healthy populations needs. RDA’s do not consider any variances like medication, diet, and lifestyle that may overly stress or deplete the body’s resources. It is simply the amount you need not get sick.

4) Where do we get Magnesium from?

Why aren’t we all downing handfuls of supplements if it is so important? Well, supplements are exactly what they say they are – supplements! The idea is that you use supplements to add or boost an already healthy eating plan. They are not replacements; there is a big difference!

There are many arguments for and against supplements, but you cannot escape that they are processed and expensive. On the other hand, they can also be a great help when dealing with a genuine deficiency or to help you through a difficult time. But, in my opinion, your first point of call should always be diet. A whole food diet should provide you with the bulk of what you need.

A whole food diet is usually rich in Magnesium and the necessary cofactors to make it more bioavailable.

Foods that are rich in magnesium are[vii]:

  • green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard, beet greens)
  • nuts (brazil, cashew and almonds),
  • seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, mustard, flax)
  • whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat)
  • raw cacao powder (which means a good quality dark chocolate is on the menu – yum!),

Packaged and industrialized food sources are usually ‘fortified’ or ‘enriched’ with vitamins and minerals[viii]. Nutrients are either added to ‘bump up’ their nutrient claims or added as a result of nutrients being lost during processing. The quality and bioavailability of these fortified substances are questionable and are often simply flushed out of our systems. For example, Magnesium comes in different forms, some of which our bodies can absorb more efficiently than others. There is no way of knowing the quality and type of fortified Magnesium is being added to processed food. I think it’s a safe bet that it’s the cheapest and probably not the best quality.

5) A word of caution[ix]

It would be best if you took caution when you begin using supplements. Of course, we assume that supplements are all safe, but considering these nutrients’ vital role in our body, it is always prudent to do your homework and consult with someone in the know first.

Magnesium is a common ingredient in laxatives and is also found in heartburn and antacids medications. So, diarrhoea is a possible side effect. If you purchase a supplement, make sure it is a trusted brand, start with the minimum dose, and then work your way up to the recommended doses. If you experience diarrhoea, cut back, and wait a while longer before increasing the amount. This builds what is called bowel tolerance. Adding a teaspoon of choline citrate can sometimes assist with the absorption and tolerance of Magnesium.

Depleted magnesium levels are difficult to assess, and symptoms are commonly shared with many other types of deficiencies. So be careful not to jump to the assumption that you have a deficiency. However, if you are taking medication, have a stressful lifestyle, and your diet lacks fresh whole foods, perhaps discuss supplementation with your health care professional.

6) What are some deficiency symptoms?[x]

  • Stress and irritability
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cramps and twitching muscles
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure

Severe deficiencies can include mental disorders like schizophrenia because magnesium is critical to many brain chemicals.

7) What are the types of magnesium?

  • Magnesium L-threonate[xi]
    Found under a group of supplements called nootropics. Used for brain and neural health and may be beneficial to conditions related to hyperactivity, depression, anxiety and memory issues

  • Magnesium glycinate[xii]
    Gentlest on the gut and easiest to be absorbed.  Used for relaxation, gut health and reducing nerve pain.

  • Magnesium malate[xiii]
    Malic acid, found naturally in fruit and often used in skincare products, is combined with Magnesium to create magnesium malate and is considered the most absorbable Magnesium and promoted for improving energy levels, relieving pain and helping with lifting moods.

  • Magnesium orotate & taurate[xiv]
    Used for treatment of magnesium deficiencies and can be very expensive. Also used for cardiovascular health.

  • Magnesium chloride[xv]
    Often mixed with water to create Magnesium oil, (it just feels oily, but it isn’t actual oil). Used for sore muscles.

  • Magnesium sulfate[xvi]
    Commonly known as Epson Salts. Used as a laxative and soaking in for easing aching muscles.

8) What types of Magnesium should you avoid or use caution?

Magnesium citrate, hydroxide and oxide[xvii] should be used with caution. They are the most common versions found in laxatives. Using this form of Magnesium too often can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. In addition, magnesium citrate and oxide are used in high doses as a colon cleanser before surgery and can cause severe stomach upset.

Avoid Magnesium aspartate and glutamate as much as possible. These are both considered excitotoxins[xviii] which stimulate neurons to fire to the point of injury or cell death. This is often part of athletic supplements and found in artificial sweeteners like aspartame (which contains aspartate) and food additives like MSG (which contains glutamate).

9) What are the side effects of Magnesium?

Like everything in life, too much of anything can be a problem. Even though Magnesium overdosing is very rare, it can happen. Always be aware of side effects when starting with a new medical treatment, including natural supplements. (If you are concerned, consult a professional health care provider). Some things to look out for are:

  • Digestive issues can include: nausea, vomiting, upset stomach and diarrhoea
  • More severe effects can include: drop in blood pressure, arrhythmia, confusion, breathing problems.

10) Where do you buy Magnesium?

Most health stores will stock well-sourced supplements, and if you ask them to assist, they will advise on the best brands. There are ready-made sprays, creams and supplements that can help with everything from aching muscles to sleeplessness. There are also buckets of Epsom Salts or Magnesium chloride flakes that can be used in baths, foot soaks or made into creams or sprays. Checking the ingredients of supplements is vital and ultimately your responsibility. If you are considering taking larger doses, always do so strictly under the guidance of a trained health professional.

Always Remember:

As with everything in life, the application of common sense and a dash of caution is always a good practice. It is easy and tempting to identify with symptoms and pin all our hopes on a single supplement, food or medication, often leading to disappointment. Overall, your overall health is just that – overall, and it involves your mind, body, and nutrition. If you are battling with various symptoms, I urge you to put your detective hat on and investigate all parts of your life that may affect you. Consider things like relationships, living and work environment, your self-care routines and how you talk to yourself. All these aspects and many more have a distinct chemical reaction in our bodies that can affect our state of mind and being.

 

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Person holding an ipad with the text What is a Nutrichologist?

If you just searched for what a Nutrichologist is, and all you could find is this site, you are definitely wondering what this new fandangle Nutrichologist is.

The short answer is… I made it up. Actually, my partner John made it up after hearing me say for the 100th time, “I can’t keep telling people I’m a nutritionist that works on the principles of health and eating psychology coaching!”

Added to this, I love what I do and can’t get enough of it, so more studies are on the horizon… how do I encapsulate all of that? Somehow John has this uncanny ability with words and very casually looked over at me one day and said Nutrichologist. Ta-da, there it was; after months of saying I’m a Culinary Nutritionist, Eating Psychology Health Coach, and Integrative Nutrition Coach, I could say Nutrichologist!

So now that you know where the name came from, let’s break it all down, and the best way to explain Nutrichologist is to ask you a few questions…

Do you know what you need to do every day to maintain your health and wellness?

If your answer is an unequivocal yes, then message me… I have questions.

If your answer is anything between yes (with a slight hesitation) to heck no, I’m just winging it, then welcome, you are with your people.

Through the years and my studies, I have seen some giants in the health and wellness industry do 180° turns on what they believed as absolute truths. Let’s go bigger; many of the premises for what we have as institutionalised health guidelines are being disproved or ‘edited’. These are people and organisations with some serious credentials that go into studies and details you and I will most likely never fully comprehend… yet… they get it wrong; oops, change their findings?

So, whenever I hear someone say something is THE way to go, I cannot help but wonder what its shelf life will be?

How many things in the name of health and wellness have you tried in your lifetime?

We all want to eat better, live more consciously, and adopt a healthier approach to life in general. We buy books, listen to podcasts, and try different programs but still find it challenging to figure out what we need to do on a day-to-day basis. Some things work, and others we have no idea, but there must be some benefit…right?

I get it. That was me many years back. There was a success (often short-lived), and there was a whole lot of unpleasantness (let’s face it, some of those miracle products/practices aren’t for the faint-hearted). Ultimately, I always felt I wasn’t quite getting the big picture.

The more I learnt, the less I seemed to know, and none of it empowered me to eat and live intuitively. But this isn’t just about me; look around, look at the world. We have so much evidence and knowledge. Yet year on year, lifestyle diseases like obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes keeps rising and affecting our children more and more.

Dawn, that’s pretty gloomy! Is there even any point in trying?

ABSOLUTELY. And by absolutely, I don’t mean that I have a miracle answer or even a fantastic offer. No, real life isn’t that glamorous, it may have glamorous moments (tiara on standby), and we need to celebrate those moments. But the reality is this:

  • Anything worthwhile takes work and effort.
  • The answer is not out there; it is where you are now.
  • There is no silver bullet or single solution.

I need at least 100 points for my cliché badge, but, cliché or not, it’s all true. After all my studies, life experiences, and lessons, I realised a few things. These things that I have learned and continue to learn (because life is incredible that way) lie at the heart of Nutrichologist.

Now for the truth bombs…

  • Living and being healthy is profoundly personal and varied, and there are no guarantees. It also looks different from person to person. Period!

In a world where we are bombarded with snapshots of near-perfect people, quick solutions, and instant everything, our own lives can seem less than in comparison. As individuals, we know it’s not realistic, but it doesn’t stop us from secretly trying.

  • Our perceptions and reality are often very different.

Life is about ups and downs, ebb, and flow. Even in the crappiest moments of our lives, something can bring us joy. You can look over at your partner wearing their unsexy hobo-esque sleepwear and still see what you love about them. You can be healthy without ever having a smoothie or going on a juice cleanse.

  • YOU are unique – find what works for you.

We are all different, and no two people on the planet are the same, which is why we have soooo many different dietary principles and plans. Many things influence what, why, how, and when we eat and live. Circumstances change which means adapting ways of doing and thinking.

What does Nutrichologist do then?

  • Guide
    Your journey is deeply personal and, as mentioned, influenced by many factors. Nutrichologist helps you navigate these many influences through exploration, discussion, and experimentation.
  • Practical Nutrition
    Information does not always translate into doing. Sharing nutritional information is a part of the Nutrichologist experience, however applying the knowledge using cooking classes, challenges, and discussions is key.
  • Experiment
    There is no handbook; the way to find what works for you is through trial and error, focusing on experimentation and exploration. This also means all are welcome and without judgement.

The goal is for you to find your way to being confident and comfortable with your food and lifestyle choices, to help you create your unique user manual and to know how to adapt it without getting overwhelmed.

It is finding your inner guru and learning to trust the one true specialist that knows you inside and out – YOU!

So, join me as we live, learn and laugh through the lenses of mind, body, and nutrition.

Dawn

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