Blueberry Gummies and why Gelatin is Great!

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The Magical Powers of Gelatin

True story....I use gelatin a lot! Here are a few quick reasons why you should incorporate gelatin into your diet. 

  • Helps with gut healing and digestion
  • Helps to combat constipation
  • Supports healthy hair and nail growth
  • Helps skin become more 'elastic' (good for fending off pregnancy stretch marks)
  • Source of protein and healthy amino acids that are only found in joints of animals. This includes Glycine, which is a potenent anti-inflammatory. 
  •  Helps balance hormones. This can be helpful for women who sufferfrom PCOS or estrogen dominance. 

Blueberry Ginger Gummies

These healthy low sugar gummies are a source of electrolytes thanks to the sea salt. They are a great quick snack, pick-me-up during a trainning session or or as an easy to digest labour fuel. The ginger can also make them great for nausea in the first trimester of pregnancy. 

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 2 tbs balsamic vinager (or more water)

  • 2 tbs grassfed gelatin (find it here

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 1 tsp powdered ginger

  • Stevia as desired to taste 

Place the blueberries, stevia and balsamic in a small saucepan and cook for 5-10 mins or until cooked and have released there sweet juices. Transfer to blender or use an immersion blender (careful if your mixture is hot!) and puree until well blended. Return to pot.

Mix gelatin into water and allow to "bloom" for 5 mins. 
 

Re-heat blueberry mix adding in sea salt, ginger and gelatin mix. Don't let boil but get hot enough to mix in gelatin. Stir well until combined. Allow to sit for 30-ish mins and then transfer into a silicon mini muffin pan or molds of some sort. Chill for 3-4hrs and enjoy! 

Why Ice Cream is your friend when you are Paleo or Primal and Pregnant

My version of Paleo 'Mint Chip' Ice Cream

I have a confession to make...I am a totally obsessed ice cream lunitic. I just can't get enough of the stuff. There is something magical about ice creams sweet melty goodness, especially on a hot summer evening, that I just can't get enough of. I routinely chat about the importance of reducing sugars in the second and third trimester with my midwifery clients. You may be shocked to learn that a part of that discussion always includes an endorsement of ice cream as a perfect pregnancy treat. Why? Read on :) 

 

Why ice cream is an ideal Paleo friendly pregnancy treat

  • Grassfed dairy or goat milk ice cream (Primal) is loaded with calcium, beneficial saturated fats (needed to absorb the calcium) and Conjugated Linoic Acid (CLA). These combined with a nice ratio of protein and carbohydrates, helps to negate the insulin spikes caused by added sugars. Dairy based ice cream could be included on a Primal diet or on a selective dairy based version of a Paleo diet. 
  • Coconut based dairy free ice cream (Paleo) also has many benefits including being rich in saturated fats and lauric acid. Lauric acid plays a fundamental role in building your body’s immune system. Once in your system, lauric acid transforms into an antibacterial and antiviral substance called "monolaurin" which destroys viruses and diseases. Lauric acid also occurs naturally in human breast milk and plays a vital role in nourishing and protecting babies from infections. Cocount is also rich in Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) which promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels. Coconut based ice cream is also much lower in sugar than many other treats.
  • Ice cream satisfies your sweet tooth. A healthy diet is all about not feeling restricted. Endulge in sensible moderation and enjoy food...it's magic. 

Making Paleo ice cream at home

I bought a simple and inexpensive cuisinart ice cream maker a few years ago. Let me tell you,  in the summer time it gets used frequently! Making your own ice cream is a bit delicate but once you get everything right, it gets much easier. Tips for perfect ice cream:

My Paleo version of Cherry Garcia in the works. Thank you Ice Cream Maker! Want your own...see the link at the bottom of this post! 

My Paleo version of Cherry Garcia in the works. Thank you Ice Cream Maker! Want your own...see the link at the bottom of this post! 

  • Use a thickener: I use grassfed gelatin but agar-agar or tapioca starch can work too.
  • Make sure all your ingredients are COLD. I keep my ice cream maker base in the freezer for 24hrs + before using it. I also pre-freeze my ice cream storage dish and refrigerate my ice cream batter before churning it in the mixer. 4-24hrs is ideal.
  • Store your precious creamy treat in a shallow glass dish. This will help it defrost evenly and ensure you get pretty scoops.
  • Don't eliminate fat by using "lite" coconut milk or "low fat" milk. The fat is essential for the texture and taste. Plus, it's where most of the benefits are found.
  • Don't eliminate all the sugar (unless on 21day Sugar Detox), some sugar is required for good texture. You can sub half the sweeter with stevia if you like. 
  • Watch your portions. Standard portions are 1/2 cup - 2/3 cups. 

I follow a dairy free Paleo diet and have been messing around with various ice cream recipes for years. Recently, I picked up a copy of Kelly Brozyna new book Dairy Free Ice Cream and it's changed my life! Her suggestions for thickeners using gelatin really helped the texture of the ice cream. It's something I'd experimented with before but couldn't quite get the ratios right. So far I've tried her recpies for chocolate, brownie batter, vanilla and used her ideas as a starting point for some of my own versions of classic treats including a mint chocolate chip and paleo cherry garcia (recipe below). Honestly, you have to buy a copy of this amazing book! 

Want Ice Cream but don't want to make it? 

Ok, so perhaps the process of ice cream making isn't your 'cup of tea'. Here are a few Paleo/Primal friendly tips to keep in mind when purchasing commercial based ice cream.

  • Watch out for stablizers, additives and thickeners. Carrageenan is a common thickener that can cause digestive distress in some folks and is a bit controversial. See Chris Kressers post, here for more info.
  • Check and see what the ice cream is sweetened with. Stay away from Agave nectar when possible. It is a sub-optimal sweetner for a number of reasons and I don't endorse it's use on a paleo or primal diet. In my opinion, agave is pure evil. 
  • If buying dairy ice cream, try to find grassfed dairy or goat milk dairy. Many local producers will make their own ice creams. In Canada Woolwich dairy goat ice creams are widely avaliable but grassfed dairy is harder to come by than it is in the United States. Mapletons Organic is pretty decent stuff although not grassfed.
  • If buying non-dairy ice cream, stay away from Soy and read labels. The cleanest commercially available coconut based products I've found include: Screamin Brothers which is locally made here in Alberta and is honey as its sweetner. The widely avaliable So Delicious is transitioning all of its products from agave based sweeteners to organic cane sugar (yahoo) and it's coconut ice creams are pretty great. 

Meg's Verion of Paleo "Cherry Garcia"

I love my ice cream on a gluten free cone. These cones have pretty paleo friently ingredients and can be a nice little paleo cheat #notperfectpaleo.

When I was a kid, cherry ice cream used to be my favourite. I would call it "beetle" ice cream because the cherries looked like beetles to my little 5 year old mind. I decided to try to recreate my childhood favourite after being inspired by Spunky Coconut's Kelly Brozyna. 

Makes 6-8 servings

2 cups Sweet Fresh Cherries (frozen would work too) pitted

1 container Full Fat Coconut milk (BPA free and organic if possible)

1 cup unsweetened almond, hemp or coconut milk (carton)

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or 1/2 cup soft dates made into puree

1 tbs pure vanilla exract

1 tbs natural almond extract 

1 tbs grassfed gelatin disolved into 1/4 cup boiling water

1/2 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks (or dark chocolate bar chopped) 

Puree 1 cup of cherries in blender and add coconut milk, date paste/coconut sugar, vanilla exract, almond extract and blend until well combined. Add hemp, almond or carton based coconut milk and blend another 1-2 mins. Add in disolved gelatin/water mixture and blend for an additional 2 mins. Transfer into a glass dish and set into fridge to cool 4-6hrs. 

After your mixture has cooled it will resemble a pudding. Stir to break up any clumps and transfer into your ice cream maker. Process according to manufacturers directions (mine takes about 20 mins to set into a nice soft serve). Add remaining 1 cup of fresh cherries (cut into halves or quarters) and chocolate chunks. Process until these add-in's are well combined. Transfer into a pre-chilled shallow glass dish and let set in freezer for 1-2hrs or until desired consistency. To re-use your ice cream just set on counter top for 30 mins until soft. ENJOY! 

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How to Balance Your Hormones- Paleo Styles

My friend Erin Urton from Tuja Wellness, finding her balance in Zion a few years ago. 

Balance.  We all desire it and yet so many of us struggle to find it! It can be complicated, like a good relationship, as well as mystical, like the snuffleupagus. When it comes to optimal female health, fertility and wellbeing finding a healthy hormone balance is critical.

How do you know your hormones may be out of balance? Well if you suffer from sleep disturbance, fatigue, unexplained weight gain or loss, acne, irregular menstruation, infertility, PMS or have been told you have PCOS, then you suffer from a hormone imbalance. 

Meg the Paleo Midwife's suggestions for helping to improve your hormone balance

1. Limit Caffeine: Remember my Bulletproof post last week? Caffeine can be great for a healthy individual, however, if your body is under stress it can wreak havoc on your delicate adrenal system. The adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol in addition to sending messages to your pituitary gland. It's your pituitary gland where the hormones LH (leutinizing) and FSH (folliclie stimulating hormone) are made. These two hormones are critical for egg maturation and ovulation, which are key parts of getting pregnant. If adrenals are depleated, hormonal imbalance can occur. Choose herbal tea or decaf or half-caf coffee instead.

You cand find these awesome chips here! They do online ordering too. How did I figure out how to include chips in a post about hormones? Can you see the irony? Ha ha

2. Avoid high Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fats: These are mostly found in vegtable oils like canola, safflower, sunflower or soybean oil. Avoiding these fats is a key part of the Paleo diet as they cause inflammation and easily oxidize in the body. Inflammation contribues to endocrine/hormone balance and can cause disruptions in the bodies natural cycles. The easiest way to avoid them is to read labels and ask what kind of oil is used in restaurants!  They linger in chips (even sweet potato chips) and packaged foods. Choose fats from animals like butter, ghee or lard in addition to non-animal fats found in olive and coconut oils. Need to satisfy your chip craving? These will do it and keep you healthy! 

3. SLEEP: Sleep really does fix everything. If your body isn't getting the rest it needs then it isn't getting a chance to repair and produce its own natural hormones. Not getting sleep affects your hormones viat two main pathways. The first is via the pituitary axis. Not only does the pituitary glad produce LH and FSH (see above) it also produces GH or growth hormone. This hormone is responsible for repair and rejuvination in the body. The second main way sleep contributes to hormone balance is with the simulation of your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that tells your body to chill out! Most endocrine (aka hormone) organs in your body need good parasympathetic 'tone'. There are several well documented examples of sleep deprivation effecting pancreatic insulin secreation and the release of leptin from fat cells. Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone. Sleep deprivation also effects your thyroid gland and it's overall function. All key things to help you look and feel your best.  If you have trouble sleeping developing a few rituals around bedtime can help. Here's a link to a great article about sleep hygiene. 

4. Exercise intellegently:  Running marathons and doing 5 hard WODs a week does not improve hormone function! Exercise just hard enough to challenge your body but not so hard that it can't recover. When you work too hard you stimulate an overwhelming release of cortisol, which tells your pituitary that you're stressed! Most bodies can do this for a little while but in the long term your body gets the signal that maybe this isn't a great time to be fertile and bring new little cavebabies into the world!

Gentle cardiovascular activity done early in the day and feel enjoyable are key (late day workouts can harm sleep) . Many people enjoy hiking, walking, swimming or biking. A bonus, exercise done outside also helps improve your mood, vitamin D levels and overall sense of wellbeing!  Lifting heavy weights 2-3 times a week can also help trigger a cascade of benifical hormone responses that can be ideal for hormone balance. 

This list changes anually so be sure to keep up to date. 

5. End your relationship with toxins: Choose your organic produce wisely. Using a guide like the dirty dozen and clean 15 can help you make budget friendly choices. Try to buy local, organic or pasture raised meats and eggs when possible.

It's not just what we eat that can effect our hormones. It's also what's in our homes, cars and offices. Limit exposure to things like plastics (BPA), non-stick/teflon cookwear and read labels on your skin care products and cleaning supplies. You'd be surprised where toxins can linger. Choose natural skin care products that don't contain hormone disruptors like parabens. Consider using homemade cleaners like baking soda, vinager and soap. You'd be surprised how effective these can be! .

Priming for Paleo

 

Check out this cool post over at Health Perch

I get so many questions from readers who are keen to adopt a Paleo-style diet in order to optimize fertility, stay healthy during pregnancy and just increase their own health and wellness. SO AWESOME!

Many readers are confused about different ideas and opinions regarding what the Paleo diet includes. This is totally understandable!  The 'google-machine' can be so overwhelming!  I came across this great summary that helps folks who are new to ancestral eating.

All of these awesome nutrient dense foods are a part of a standard Paleo diet

This post is a cool illustrated piece that features nutritional guidelines, called “Choose My Plate”, and offers both a typical diet and a Paleo diet illustration. Great for visual learners :) Additionally,  it offers a number of easy to understand tips and lists to help you understand the basics of the Paleo diet. 

All the cool kids have contributed to this great summary and they include:  Dr. Loren Cordain, Neely Quinn of PaleoPlan, Melissa Hartwig of Whole9, and Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites - on what it means to really "go Paleo." They all discuss why a Paleo diet is so important and their own special tricks for managing cravings. 

It's pretty rad and worth checking out! 

The link to the site is found here.

I hope you enjoy these friendly tips from these awesome folks.

 

 

 

Bulletproof Coffee and Pregnancy

Ever notice how things always seem to happen in three's? This week I've gotten three questions from readers about the safety of Bulletproof coffee in pregnancy. Huh, well, I guess I have my topic for the week! 

What is Bulletproof Coffee?

Bulletproof coffee is a trend that has taken the Primal/Paleo world by storm in recent years. Bulletproof coffee is a brand developed by Dave Asprey. Bulletproof coffee is made by blending high quality coffee, MCT oils and grassfed butter into a delicious and highly potent drink. Dave markets and sells "Upgraded" products including high quality coffee, Brain Octane (MCTs) and other products on his website but many folks simply use their own local grassfed butters, coconut oil and organic dark coffee beans.

 Bulletproof coffee is bascially a tweak of a classic Tibetan drink called yak butter tea. Now, if you've ever had yak butter tea, which I have, it isn't exactly the most palatable stuff but it is exactly what your body needs at higher elevations and serves as both a nourishing beverage and important social custom for many of the people of the high Himalayan. 

Benefits of Bulletproof Coffee

Dave claims that drinking this beverage regularly can help you lose weight, optimize brain function, enhance fertility and overall make your life more rad. Sound like a gimmick? Jury's still out on that one. Try it for yourself and see how you feel. I'm dairy allergic (can't even have ghee) so the only version I've had is coffee with copious coconut oil/butter. It was delicious but true story, I love breakfast and if I drink it I can't eat breakfast too (too rich) so it's a hard choice for me! 

 Is Bulletproof coffee safe for pregnancy?

Well, let's break down each ingredient and decide for ourselves:

Grassfed butter: Safe and Recommended

- High in Vitamin A, D and K2, all essential nutrients for pregnancy.

-  High in Oleic acid and Myristic acid (cancer fighting fats)

- Contains CLA (metabolism boosting fats)

- Source of dietary cholesterol (essential for brain development and nervous system function)

- High in glycospingolipids which protect the lining of the gut from pathogens

- Rich in Omega-3's which help babies brain and eye development as well as aid in optimal maternal cardiovascular function. 

MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride): Safe and Recommended 

- High in lauric acid which our bodies convert into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-protozoa properties. 

- Stimulates metabolic activity (utilized as energy rather than being stored) and aids in healthy thyroid function.

- Anti-inflamatory properties and healing on the digestive system

Coffee: Approach with caution and moderation

- Aids in cardiovascular health and is protective against dementia and Alzheimer's 

- Rich in antioxidants and some studies have shown that it may reduce the risk of skin cancer 

- May block a substance called human islet amyloid polypeptide that may play a role in the development of diabetes.

- Aids in mental sharpness and athletic performance and recovery

- Coffee and pregnancy: Coffee naturally contains high levels of caffeine. For a full run down of the risks and benefits of caffeine in pregnancy, see this previous post of mine all about the use of coffee and caffeinated beverages in pregnancy. The take away message is that we don't know how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy. When pregnant,  the ability to metabolize caffeine decreases (via CYP1A2 enzyme pathways) therefore their circulating levels of caffeine in the bloodstream and thus to the growing fetus are increased. I take this delayed metabolism as a sign that it isn't something the body should have much of when growing a new little human.  You may notice that a little caffeine goes a long way when your pregnant. Maybe it's natures way of telling you to cool it. 

So....does this mean bulletproof coffee is 'out' during pregnancy?  Nope.

- Swap out regular coffee for Organic Swiss Water Decaf. Many studies show that decaf coffee still has many of the protective antioxidant benefits of regular coffee. Please be sure to source your beans well, choosing organic and fair trade when possible and make sure that the coffee isn't chemically processed. Dave even sells a clean decaf version of his Bulletproof coffee on his site but you can also just source your own beans from a local roaster. 

- MCT and grassfed butter are pregnancy superfoods! Consume in 'liberal moderation'! 

Do you drink bulletproof coffee? Have you noticed any benefits? Any downsides? 

 

 

 

I made donuts out of Plantains...true story

I've been shying away from recipe posts as of late. I'm just not very good at being patient enough to measure and time everything I do and man, I'm no expert in the kitchen. This one however was a full stroke of luck. It's delicious. Filled with Paleo friendly healthy carbs and starches and is a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth. These donuts are also a healthy option if you're dealing with carb cravings and food aversion in the first trimester. Feel to switch up the recipe and harness your creative spirit! Add some cacao powder, top the donut with coconut butter, almond butter or chia jam instead of ganache, the sky's the limit here. 

You can see here that Plantains come in a variety of "ripenesses". Green are a great form of resistant starch. As they get more "ripe" and black, they develop there sweetness and develop a much softer texture.

You can see here that Plantains come in a variety of "ripenesses". Green are a great form of resistant starch. As they get more "ripe" and black, they develop there sweetness and develop a much softer texture.

What are Plantains?

Plantains are a starchier, less sweet version of a banana found in tropical regions. They are high in carbohydrates and are a source of antioxidants, B-6 and fiber. All good stuff for a health pregnancy. Green plantains are a source of resistant starch which are beneficial for gut flora proliferation. 

I topped my with gluten free sprinkles. Not quite 100% paleo but hey, I'm no perfectionist! 

Paleo Plantain Donuts (makes 5 mini donuts*) with a Sugar free (option)

1- 7oz (peeled) Plantain**, yellow with no black spots  

2 tbs melted coconut oil

1 egg (at room temp)

1 tsp baking powder

Few drops of stevia to taste or 1 tbs coconut sugar or other sweetener of choice

1 tsp vanilla powder (you can use extract too)

Ganache Topping:

1/3 cup enjoy life chips or 1/3 cup krisda chips (for sugar free)

1 tbs coconut oil

Preheat oven to 375. Chop plantain into a few pieces and place in your blender. Blend until smooth. Add melted coconut oil, egg, baking powder and vanilla powder. Blend until smooth. Spoon into a greased mini donut pan and bake for 10 mins. Remove from oven and cool slightly before removing donuts from pan. Let cool.

Prepare the ganache by melting chips and coconut oil together stirring well. Dip the cooled donuts into the hot ganache and top with coconut, gluten free sprinkles or whatever else tickles your fancy. 

* You could easily double the recipe and use a larger donut pan. I imagine these also would make great mini muffins or cupcakes. 

** Green banana will likely work for this recipe too if I you can't find plantains where you live

Is a Paleo Diet Safe During Pregnancy?

Is the Paleo Diet Safe for Pregnancy? 

I get this question all the time! My simple answer is YES! How could a diet rich in wholefoods from clean sources not be beneficial for you and your growing cavebaby? Studies focused on pregnant women and nutrition go back to the 1930's when food shortages were linked to an increased rate of miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects. It is now a long standing belief that the maternal diet has a direct correlation to the health and wellbeing of both the mother and the growing baby. Let's get right down to the nitty gritty and look at a few main reasons why a balanced Paleo diet can be optimal for your healthy pregnancy. 

Why a Paleo diet is great for pregnancy

Rich in clean animal based proteins: Your body needs extra protein during pregnancy. Protein from clean sources such as grassfed cows, pasture raised chickens and wild fish provide easy to assimilate dense soures of what your body needs extra of during your baby growing times. Although there are many macronutrient variations on the Paleo diet. A well balanced diet containing 20-30% protein is common for many Paleo eaters and is a perfect ratio for pregnant mamas. 

Optimal Omega 3:6 ratios:

As long as you take it easy on the nuts, which are higher in omega-6, a balanced Paleo diet provides optimal levels of omega 3's which are needed for your babies brain/eye development. Studies have also found that diets rich in omega-3's may help prevent pre-eclampsia and protect you from postpartum depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Stocking up on grassfed meat, wild caught fish, sardines and taking your fermented cod liver oil ect will contribute to a reduction of inflammation in the body and result in optimal health for you and your growing baby. 

Rich in prebiotics and proboitics

More of the good bugs and less of the bad! 

A balanced Paleo diet should include some fermented vegtables or if you include grassfed dairy in your diet, fermented dairy like yogurts and kefir. These food sources are rich in proboitics that help establish a healthy bacteria flora in your gut. This flora forms the cornerstone of our digestion and immune systems, two systems that may become challenged during pregnancy. A diet rich in proboitics has also been linked to predominance of optimal strains of vaginal bacterial flora which will keep yeast infections away and may reduce the chance of swabing positive for group-B strep as you approach your due date.

Prebiotics are also plentiful in a healthy Paleo diet. Prebiotics are starches that help feed the probiotics and contribute to their proliferation. They have also been shown to lower insulin levels and stabalize blood sugars, which tend to naturally run high in the second and third trimester.  Prebiotics are critical for healthy bowel function and are found in chicory root, jerusalem artichokes, seaweed and plantains.

-Nutrient Dense:

The Paleo diet is a nutrient dense diet. Why? All the processed foods and general garbage have been removed and replaced by REAL FOOD. Everything you on a clean Paleo diet should be loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients which are required for good health. Not only that but many of the food items that are encouraged when taking the Paleo approach, such as organ meats, egg yolks and bone broths, are nutritional powerhouses that can be very healing to the body and aid in optimal function. Just what the doctor, or midwife, ordered! 

-Consideration for food sourcing: 

One of the things that I like the most about the Paleo approach to nutrition is the consideration of food sourcing. Food is so much more than proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Where our food comes from directly influences its nutritional value and ability to truly nourish our bodies, and growing babies (not to mention nourishing the planet).  Studies have confirmed that organic produce contains between 20-40% more nutrient value than non-organic produce. I'm not suggesting shelling out mega bucks and buying everything organic but at the least, using Real Food Liz's dirty dozen and clean fifteen as a guide is a good start.  Reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones and antibiotics are all key parts of a healthy diet and even more important to pay attention to when growing a new little life.