Sweet potato truffles

I absolutely adore sweet potatoes. They are one of the most versatile vegetables – easily used in both savory and sweet dishes, much like pumpkins.

Sweet potatoes can be prepared in the same way as normal potatoes yet are a more nutritious option. Some sources such as Whole Foods consider sweet potatoes one of the healthiest vegetables to eat, particularly due to their vitamin A content. Just 1 medium sized sweet potato provides all the vitamin A for the day. Like carrots and other foods rich in beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), it is essential to always eat sweet potatoes with a fat sources, like a little oil, nuts or seeds.

If you have some leftover sweet potato, you might want to experiment with this easy, healthy truffle.

Sweet Potato Truffles

1 medium sweet potato (cooked) – peeled and mashed

3 tbsp oil (preferably melted coconut oil)

2 tbsp coconut cream or milk (the most solid part)

1 tbsp coconut flour or ordinary flour

a pinch of salt

a dash of maple syrup or honey

Spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg if desired

Method:

Mix everything together with a fork until smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then make balls and roll in sesame seeds or grated coconut. Store in the fridge.

Truffle

Do fats make you fat?

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Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, fat was The Enemy, something to be absolutely avoided. I am sure many of you will remember the age of low-fat everything, and how ‘healthy’ we felt eating those foods! After all, fat makes you fat, right?

Wrong! If there is one dietary myth I think it is important for people to know, it is that we NEED a good amount of healthy fats in our diets. And while it is true that some types of fat are better avoided, it is also true that many of us are not eating enough healthy fats. I know from my own experience that I was not eating enough fats a few years ago. As a ‘muffin vegetarian’, I ate very little fatty foods, and I actually thought this was a good thing – yet I was constantly grazing between meals. Adding more healthy fats to my diet, mostly in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs and coconut products drastically changed how full I feel after a meal.

Fats have more calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins, but as I have written before, it is much more important to look at nutrients than calories, and fats are absolutely essential for the following processes:

♦ Building blocks of hormones

♦ Anti-inflammatory effect, meaning healthy fats can decrease the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases

♦ Fats make the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K possible

♦ Fats are essential for proper growth and development, especially considering that 60% of our brains are made of fat

♦ Fats slow down digestion, helping us feel full for longer and can also help reduce sugar cravings

Here are some easy ways to up the healthy fat quota of your meals:

Add raw, unsalted nuts like almonds and walnuts to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie, sprinkle them over salads or soups or just snack on a handful.

Add raw, unsalted seeds to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie, sprinkle them over salads or soups or just snack on a handful. Please note that linseeds/flaxseeds must always be ground in order for the body to digest them properly.

Add avocados to a salad or on top of any grain-based meal. Make guacamole or spread on toast or crackers for breakfast or a light dinner. Avocados have a unique combination of healthy fats and despite what a lot of women fear, they do not make you fat! They are actually particularly beneficial for balancing hormones in women.

Olives and olive oil (always extra virgin and cold pressed) can be poured over or added to any meal.

Coconut products such as coconut oil, milk or flakes are also a great source of a mid-chain fatty acids which are found in few other foods. Like nuts and seeds, flakes can be added to to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie and coconut milk or cream can be used to make soups or curries or again, added to smoothies. I use coconut oil for cooking as it has a high smoke point (it can be heated without damaging the oil).

Good news for butter lovers – butter is now being considered a healthy fat when it is from grass-fed cows and eaten in moderation. I don’t think anyone needs ideas on how to use butter!

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon (sockeye), herring, sardines and black cod are good to eat about 3 times per week. If you prefer not to eat fish or live somewhere where it is not available, it is essential to take an omega 3 supplement. I take this myself since I don’t like the taste of fish, even though I eat plenty of plant-based sources of omega 3. Plant-based sources of omega 3 like walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds are very healthy, but are a less efficient source as a conversion process still needs to take place in the body.

Eggs are a great source of healthy cholesterol which is essential for the body. Expert opinion on eggs have now been reviewed and it is generally agreed that they do not cause cholesterol in healthy people. Make sure the eggs you eat are organic and free range.

Meat can also be a healthy fat but again, make sure the animal ate its natural diet of grass rather than grains. This makes a dramatic difference in the ratio of healthy fats in the meat (the famous Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio).

Fats to avoid entirely:

Trans fats – theses are mostly man-made oils that are extremely toxic to the body, leading to heart disease, stroke and cancer. They are found in margarine, processed foods, candy, chips, crackers, flaky pastries, some peanut butters. If the label lists partially- hydrogenated oils, do your body a favor and absolutely avoid this food. The term vegetable oil on an ingredient list usually also means the product contains trans fats and is best avoided. Actually a note on margarine: Margarine and non-butter spreads are chemical, man-made foods which contains harmful fats. Use real butter instead.

Fried foods – make sure these are only a very occasional treat as fried food often contain trans fats.

Low fat foods – and yes, this includes skim milk and low-fat yoghurt. When fat is removed from foods, they are no longer the natural, whole food, and the body in all its wisdom recognizes there is something missing. This can manifest as cravings for sugar, for example. Also, low-fat foods often have sugar added to replace the taste lost by removing the fat.

So there you have it – the skinny on fats! I hope this post helped you see fats a little differently. I urge you to try adding some healthy fats to your meals to notice how full you feel in the hours after the meal. Of course, like every nutrient, the amount needed is very variable, so it is important to experiment to find the right amount for you. Above all, quality is crucial – always buy the best you can afford – cold-pressed, virgin oils and grass fed, organic animals products.

Read more about making your kitchen nut and seed friendly

Read more about making green smoothies that can be topped with healthy fats

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Sources: 1, 2, 3 

A Healthy Alternative: Coconut

Meet my coconut family. A year ago, I didn’t use any coconut related foods regularly. Now coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut milk, coconut sugar, grated coconut and coconut flakes have all become a staple of my diet.

My coconut family – only thing missing is coconut water which is more hydrating than water and a better source of potassium than bananas!

You can learn more about the many health benefits of coconut here – I mainly use it because it is often a good alternative to other foods and I love the taste!

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: It is vital to buy a good quality, extra virgin oil. I use this mostly for cooking as it has the highest smoke point of any oil but I also like to spread it on crackers or bread like butter.

Coconut flour: I just bought this to try it out as an alternative to gluten and cereal flours. It is very popular with people following the Paleo Diet, a diet based on how our ancestors ate before the agricultural age. I just made coconut bread using this recipe and to be honest, I am not sure I will buy it again! It tastes a lot drier than other flours, but has a lovely smell when you open the pack.

Coconut milk: At the moment I am trying to reduce my dairy consumption, so I have been using coconut milk instead of yoghurt or cream in curries and soups, but also occasionally adding a little to morning smoothies. It gives a nice creamy consistency to food.

Coconut sugar: I found this today in my organic food store for the first time and am very excited to try it! It can be used in the same way as brown sugar, but is supposed to be a healthier alternative.

Grated coconut: I use this mostly in cookies and cakes to add bulk, taste and moisture.

Coconut flakes: I love adding these to my morning porridge, oatmeal or smoothie. They can also be roasted for an even more special taste.

My favorite combinations: I find coconut especially divine with raspberry and cacao.

Despite appearances, I am actually quite moderate in my consumption of coconut foods as I think it is important to not overuse too much of any one food or ingredient, no matter how healthy!

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Coconut bread – a little dry but extremely filling!