Four ways that cocoa can supercharge your health

You may not know it, but cocoa makes other so-called superfoods pale in comparison. That’s pretty sweet if you ask me!

Offering your health a titan of benefits, raw cocoa can supercharge your health in many different ways! Here are some top health benefits of cocoa.

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Four health benefits of cocoa

#1: Cocoa can save your skin

Dealing with problem skin? No problem – cocoa can help! Brimming with antioxidants that are fantastic for repairing skin cells and neutralising harmful free radicals, cocoa is suitable for treating just about any skin issue, according to dermatologist Ava Shamban.

#2: Cocoa crushes sugar cravings

Pass up on the sweet treats and take a whiff of cocoa instead. Cocoa powder has a rich, seriously indulgent aroma, so you’ll often be satisfied by simply smelling it, says founder of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation Alan Hirsch.

#3: Cocoa promotes heart health

Cocoa is fantastic for treating your ticker. The flavonoids in cocoa are linked to a number of cardio perks, from reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol, to lowering blood pressure, according to director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital Suzanne Steinbaum.

#4: Cocoa enhances your mood

Cocoa can make more than just your taste buds happy … it can make you happy, too! Containing more than 300 compounds, many of which enhance your brain chemistry, cocoa powder is the ultimate mood-booster, explains author of Eat Your Way to Happiness Elizabeth Somer. Some of these compounds boost your serotonin and endorphin levels, both of which generate a happy mood.

With all these amazing benefits, I don’t know about you, but I’ll sure be enjoying many mugs of hot cocoa this winter!

Three things you didn’t know about yoghurt

As you already know, yoghurt is a dairy wonder that’s beneficial for your health in many ways.

Rich in calcium and an excellent source of high-quality protein, this nutrient-rich, all-star food is delicious no matter how you eat it – whether it’s on its own or in smoothies.

However, there are a couple of facts about yoghurt I bet you didn’t know – I’m letting you in on three of them.

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Three surprising health benefits of yoghurt

#1: Yoghurt improves your digestion

That’s right – this creamy stuff can easy all of your tummy troubles! The probiotics AKA friendly bacteria in yoghurt helps balance the microflora in your gut, which in turn helps with digestion and keeps you regular, according to culinary and nutrition expert Robin Plotkin (RD). Considering 80% of your immunity lies in your gut, it goes without saying that maintaining optimal gut health is key to a strong immune system and excellent overall health.

#2: Yoghurt is great for your heart

One of the most surprising reasons to heart yoghurt? It keeps your ticker healthy! According to associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Alvaro Alonso, eating low-fat and fat-free yoghurt may also help lower your risk of developing high blood pressure. The special proteins, calcium, magnesium and potassium in yoghurt contribute to this blood pressure-lowering effect.

#3: Yoghurt can do wonders for your skin

Forget those pricy skin treatments to perfect your problem skin. According to dermatologist Hema Sundaram, yoghurt is rich in lactic acid, which is a component in some in-office chemical peels. Lactic acid is a super-gentle exfoliator that sloughs dead cells of the top layers of the epidermis, which helps clear up blemishes and discolourations as well as smooth out wrinkles.

And there you have it – three awesome health facts about yoghurt! Do you know of any others?

This cleansing cabbage and hemp salad only takes 10 minutes to toss up

Are you looking for something quick, easy as well as tasty to toss up at lunchtime? Then this colourful cabbage and hemp salad recipe is just the thing for you!

This delicious salad incorporates a variety of colour, which is essential for obtaining a vast amount of nutrients in a single meal. It’s sure to stave off midday slumps and instead give you a great energy boost!

With added hemp seeds for protein and healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil, this salad is perfect for a satisfying lunch.

Bonus tip: Blend up a nutrient-dense green juice to enjoy with your salad for an added nutrient punch!

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Tasty hemp and cabbage salad recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

You’ll need:

  • 1 small head of purple cabbage
  • 1 handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive or hemp oil
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • Juice of a lime

What to do:

  1. Wash, cut and prepare all of the vegetables on the ingredients list.
  2. In a side bowl, whisk the olive or hemp oil with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the vegetables, olive or hemp oil and hemp seeds.
  4. Squeeze the lime juice over your salad and refrigerate it for one hour.
  5. Remove your salad from the fridge, then top with sliced avocado.
  6. Enjoy immensely!

Let me know what you think of this tasty recipe!

This cherry and beet smoothie supports your liver and reduces inflammation

If you’re anything like me, you’re all for recipes that pack both lots of flavour and a nutritional punch!

This tasty cherry and beet smoothie is dark purple in colour, and is laced with an array of nutrients that are great for every aspect of your health, but especially your natural detox system AKA your liver. Try it out!

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The nutritional benefits of this cherry and beet smoothie

In this smoothie, you’ll reap the liver-supporting benefits of beets. You’ll also take in a fantastic dose of inflammation-fighting cherries, ginger and cacao.

All other ingredients on the list are just as beneficial, and will provide your body with a great punch of all the vitamins and minerals that it needs to reboot and refuel!

The smoothie has a taste that manages to be both earthy and zesty at the same time, which is absolutely delightful first thing in the morning or after a workout.

How to blend up a tasty cherry and beet smoothie

Serves: 2

You’ll need:

  • ¼ cup almonds, cashews or hazelnuts
  • ¾ cup cherries, fresh or frozen
  • 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 beet, peeled and chopped
  • ½ banana, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tsp lime zest, grated
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • Small handful oats (optional, for a filling breakfast smoothie)
  • 2 tbsp hemp protein (optional, for a post-workout pick-me-up)

What to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. Spread the nuts of your choice out on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the nuts are lightly roasted. They should be golden brown in colour.
  3. Remove the nuts from the oven and transfer to your blender. Add the remaining ingredients to your blender and whiz on high-speed for one minute or until completely smooth.
  4. Divide the smoothie into two glasses, serve and enjoy!

Try out this sweet and soothing carrot and cantaloupe smoothie!

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that you have to swap out smoothies for soups. I personally love sipping on sweet, warming smoothies during the chilly months – especially when I’m feeling as gloomy as the weather and am in need of a little pick-me-up.

The carrot and cantaloupe smoothie recipe I’m about to share is both soothing and nutrient-dense, making it just what you need to survive the miserable cold weather! The next time you’re feeling flu-ish or run down, give this health-enhancing blend a try – you wont regret it!

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Why carrots and cantaloupe?

You might avoid carrots because of their high sugar content, but this is in fact a misconception. You see, because carrots also pack loads of fibre, they have a low glycaemic load.

However, this means that you have to eat the whole carrot (or use it in a smoothie) to maintain its fibre content. Juicing removes the fibre, which increases the glycaemic load. Therefore, the bottom line is that carrots are packed with incredible health benefits, not sugar!

Furthermore, both carrots and cantaloupe are very rich in the essential carotenoid beta-carotene, making them beneficial for your skin and eyes. They’re also both powerful natural anti-inflammatories.

Cantaloupe in particular is great for your insulin levels and blood sugar metabolism. Rich in vitamins A and C, this delicious fruit possesses an array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which actually makes it a superfood – bet you didn’t know that!

Lastly, the hint of ginger in the recipe adds a great little immune-boosting kick, while the natural sweetness of cinnamon provides blood sugar-balancing benefits. The combination as a whole is a soothing, anti-inflammatory and ever-so-yummy blend!

Carrot and cantaloupe anti-inflammatory smoothie recipe

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup carrots, chopped into small chunks
  • 2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger root, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preparation:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to your blender and blend on high-speed for one minute.
  2. Pour the mixture into two glasses and garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon if desired.
  3. Serve immediately and enjoy tremendously!

Tip: Remember to try and chew your smoothie to increase your saliva, which aids digestion. You’ll feel more satisfied! After all, smoothies aren’t drinks, but rather liquid snacks and meals.

What did you think of this recipe? Leave your comments below!

Eight healthy lifestyle goals for the Cape Town girl for 2016

With the start of a fresh new year comes an intense feeling of motivation and determination … am I right? Now is the perfect time to set yourself some healthy lifestyle goals for the year ahead! I’ve rounded eight of my top healthy lifestyle goals for the Cape Town girl for 2016 to help you get your list started!

 

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#1: Do a juice cleanse

I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously guilty of stuffing my face with all things sugary and processed over the holidays! The best way to eliminate toxins and clean out your system is by doing a juice cleanse. You’ll be amazed at how fresh and energised you’ll be left feeling at the end of your green juice binge! One-Juice and Orchard on Long both offer some fantastic and affordable juice cleanse programmes. To read about my latest juice cleanse experience, go here.

#2: Go on hikes

Our city has an abundance of natural beauty to offer … and what better way to take it all in than by going on a hike? Make it your goal to hike a new trail once every two or three months. What better way to get fit than by breathing in all of Cape Town’s beauty at the same time? Start with a hiking trail that’s not too intense, such as Lion’s Head or Elephant’s Eye, and then move onto more serious trails, such as Table Mountain.

#3: Stock up on healthy eats

Contrary to popular belief, healthy food can actually be delicious! Put it this way … I’ve never met a jar of nut butter or a frozen fruit smoothie I didn’t like. Stock your cupboards with some delicious and nutritious treats from some of our local heath food stores like Wellness Warehouse and you’ll see for yourself how easy it is to get into a healthy eating routine!

#4: Visit a farmer’s market

Looking for fresh, organic produce to create healthy meals? Then your local farmer’s market is just the place to visit. Markets like the Oranjezicht City Farm Market and Root 44 market both have loads of fresh and flavourful fruits, vegetables, meats, jams and baked goods on offer. And, yes, you can be totally sure that everything is 100% organic or grass-fed.

#5: Invest in a blender

While a quality blender can be pricy, it’ll help you whip up delicious and nutritious drinks up in a snap. You can pack pretty much anything into a smoothie … kale, broccoli, celery, or anything you don’t quite enjoy the taste of in solid form. Sipping on a smoothie is the quickest and easiest way of taking in all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs function optimally. And, yes, green smoothies taste better than they look – I promise.

#6: Try high-intensity interval training

Strong is the new skinny, isn’t it? And that’s exactly why you must try high-intensity interval training (HIIT)! This intense yet ever-so-rewarding form of exercise helps build a healthy heart, increase your metabolism, burn fat and build muscle. Plus, it’s loads of fun! Simply find a friend to tag along and hit one of our local studios, such as SWITCH Playground or SWEAT 1000.

#7: Meditate

Meditation is a wonderful way of relaxing your mind and body while becoming more in tune with your spiritual self. Until you try it, you won’t believe the incredible benefits that it brings to your health, such as lowered stress levels, improved core strength and promotion of heart health. You can practise yoga in your home, at the gym, at a yoga studio, or even on Sea Point Promenade. Join the Yoga on the Prom by Greenpop Facebook group here for more details.

#8: Eat at a healthy café

Our city is practically littered with fabulous fresh and healthy eateries … and if you aren’t eating at them, you can be sure you’re missing out! For a list of some of Cape Town’s best healthy spots to grab some grub, go here. Ditch the fast food for juices, smoothies, salads and wraps, and soon enough you’ll be hooked on the healthy stuff … take my word!

Ten simple tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle in 2016

So this is the year you’re finally going to do it: Go to the gym five times a week, cut out sugar and processed foods, prepare clean meals every evening for the next day, shed a few kilos, achieve radiant skin, and eliminate stressors from your life.

 

Whatever your goals are for 2016, right now you’re probably feeling motivated and determined to stick to them … am I right? But the sad truth is this: The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within a few weeks. So, to help you keep yours all year long, I’ve put together ten handy tips for crafting and carrying out healthy lifestyle changes!

 

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#1: Commit your goals to paper

Writing your goals down and keeping them in view – say, on a post-it note on your computer monitor or car dashboard – makes them feel tangible and official. Therefore, you’ll be less likely to fall off track. Keep the wording focused and short – the clearer, the more motivating. For example: “Swap out coffee for green tea” or “go to three yoga classes each week”. Update your goals as you go along.

#2: Be mindful when you eat

It’s a fast-paced world out there, which makes it all too easy to feel distracted and shovel in more food than you need when you’re hungry. This is why being mindful when you eat is so important. Some things to think about here include avoiding eating when you’re distracted, taking time to taste your food properly, and eating more slowly. One particular thing to focus on is chewing your food thoroughly – not only will this help you savour food, it also assists the digestive process.

#3: Sip on smoothies

Most people don’t consume enough fruits and veggies … and that’s right where smoothies come in. They’re helpful in upping your fruit and veggie intake for optimum nutrition. I’m not referring to those milkshake-like monstrosities that contain sugar and ice-cream, but rather the whole foods smoothies that are packed with fruits and veggies. Invest in a quality blender and start sipping! Smoothies are so quick and easy to whip up for breakfast or lunch, and there are loads of great recipes that you can find online.

#4: Keep your body hydrated

Two-thirds of your body is made up of water, which performs a number of functions, including acting as a solvent, temperature regulator, nutrient carrier and detoxifier. Maintaining hydration can have a profound influence on your vitality and energy levels, including mental alertness. Aim to glug down the recommended eight glasses of water per day. I find that having a water bottle on my desk in the office helps me reach my daily water intake goal.

#5: Soak up the sun

Sunlight, and the vitamin D it can make in your skin, is associated with a wide spectrum of benefits for your body, including a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also super for strengthening your immune system. As a rule of thumb, vitamin D is made when your shadow is shorter than your body length. For example: When the sun is high up in the sky. While burning is to be avoided, get as much sunlight exposure as you can for optimal health.

#6: Get your beauty sleep

Sleep has the ability to optimise physical and mental energy. Optimal levels of sleep, which is about eight hours a night, are even linked to longevity and reduced risk of chronic illness. Aim to get to bed by 10pm or 10:30pm every night. This simple strategy is a potentially useful investment in terms of your short- and long-term health and wellbeing. Shutting down all of your devices, such as your cellphone, tablet and laptop, early in the evening will also help create the time and space for a good night’s sleep.

#7: Walk regularly

Aerobic exercise is associated with a variety of benefits for your brain and body, including mood-enhancing and immune-boosting effects. This kind of exercise can be something as uncomplicated as low-impact walking. Aim for a total of about 30 minutes of brisk walking every day. I find that walking regularly helps boost my productivity levels at work, and my energy levels in the gym.

#8: Engage in resistance exercise

Resistance exercise helps you maintain muscle mass and strengthens your body. This has particular relevance as you age. Many highly useful exercises can be done at home, such as sit-ups, press-ups and squats. Invest in dumbbells to extend your home fitness routine to other exercises, too. This kind of exercise will help maintain your body between other workouts such as yoga, running or spinning. I suggest doing resistance exercises for 30 minutes about three times a week.

#9: Practise mindfulness daily

Mindfulness is an incredible way to collect your thoughts, reduce your stress levels, and become more in tune with what’s happening in the present moment. I find that practising it for ten minutes every morning helps me achieve my goals each day. It’s simple to do: On the floor, sit cross-legged. Hold you back up straight and let your shoulders drop, resting your arms in your lap. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. As thoughts enter your mind, simply acknowledge them, then focus back on your breathing. The more often you do this, the easier it becomes to keep your attention where you want it to be.

#10: Let yourself mess up once in a while

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is truly hard work (trust me – I know all about it!) … so don’t allow a one-day fast food binge or a couple of sneaked cigarettes to leave you feeling demoralised and hopeless. If you get derailed, reframe it as a learning experience and get right back on track. Good luck!