How to make the perfect cauliflower rice

If you are trying to cut down on refined carbs and need a tasty alternative or if you just want to introduce more healthy vegetables, cauliflower rice is a great choice. You just need a food processor to blitz the florets into rice-like pieces that can then be microwaved, pan-fried or roasted to create a light, fluffy rice-like addition to meals of all kinds.

Experimenting with flavours is all part of the fun. You will find your own personal favourite way of cooking it. Here’s how to get started.

MAKE IT

Remove the outer leaves, cut into florets and remove most of the thick core. If you have a large cauliflower, blitz half the cauliflower at a time. Pulse until the cauliflower resembles rice or cous cous. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate it but it will take a lot longer and you will be left with a slightly chunkier texture. Once you’ve created the cauliflower rice, you can store it covered in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for two months.
My favourite way to cook cauliflower rice is to roast it. Drizzle it with a little olive oil and spread it into a roasting tray for 15 mins at 180˚C, mixing it half way through cooking. Season with salt after cooking so it doesn’t go soggy.

I like to experiment with flavour, adding a little cumin, and chili to the mix, but I have equally experimented with a little garlic, rosemary and, sparingly, finely grated lemon zest.

The combinations are endless. Enjoy it!

Is chocolate good for you?

chocolade-e14247589597861 It is Chocolate Week here in London, and if we need an excuse to indulge in one of the most loved and popular sweet treats in the world, this is definitely a good one. I know for sure I will be heading to Olympia at the weekend for the Chocolate Show. I hear you asking: ‘Why on earth would a nutritional therapist go to a chocolate show?’ Well, first of all because it is a fun way to spend an hour or two. Last time I went they had amazing chocolate creations on display, the whole place smelt divine and I also got to taste some weird and wonderful combinations -lavender and lime flavoured chocolate truffles anyone?-  The real reason is that I actually  love chocolate!

A question I often get asked is: can chocolate be good for you? I have great news for you! Yes, chocolate can be good for you, but before you go and stuff yourself with a couple of Kit Kats, wait a minute and read on.

Perhaps I am going to spoil the good news, and your day, now but I am not about to tell you that moderation is key here. You know how some people say ‘yes, well a bit of what you fancy won’t hurt’ and so on. Actually, what does ‘in moderation’ mean anyway?  I am sure some people are very self discipline and can open a box of chocolate, eat one, put the box away and forget it in the cupboard for weeks. The reality is that most of us (me included) would happily munch their way through the whole box while watching the news.

 So, yes the amount of chocolate you eat is very important but hold this thought for a moment. The most important point is actually the quality of the chocolate you choose to eat.

Chocolate comes from the cacao plant and most specifically from its seeds. Cacao is extremely rich in flavanols which are a type of flavanoids (antioxidants). The studies we hear about which boast of chocolate’s amazing health benefits, are actually referring to the properties of raw cacao rather than the average store-bought sugar and trans fats filled chocolate bar.

So, it is dark chocolate (with a high cocoa content) that is actually quite nutritious and can improve your health. Chocolate with a 75-85% cocoa contains good levels of iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc and selenium. If you swap your milky bar with a few squares of high quality dark chocolate you could benefit from the following:

  • Improved blood flow and lower blood pressure: the flavanoids mentioned earlier seem to stimulate the production on Nitric Oxide in the lining of the arteries. This lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore blood pressure1.
  • Better heart health: the antioxidants in cocoa can improve various risk factors for heart disease like lowering LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ type) in the blood and reducing insulin resistance2,3.
  • Reduced stress: chocolate increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical which plays a role in positive moods, emotional health and balanced appetite. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are linked to depression, so if you are feeling a bit blue because it’s getting colder and darker out there, add a couple of squares of dark chocolate to your diet and watch your moods improve.

In a nutshell, the higher the cacao content and the lower the sugar, the better. Choose organic if you can, and bear in mind that chocolate also contains caffeine and theomobrine which are stimulants and should not be over consumed.

 And the quantities? In case you go around telling everybody I said scoffing chocolate is great for you, I will say it again, it’s just a couple of small squares from time to time not a whole bar in one sitting!

See you at the Chocolate Show!

References

  1. Schewe T, Steffen Y, Sies H. ‘How do dietary flavonols improve vascular function? A position paper.’ Archives Biochem Biophys. 2008 Aug 15;476(2):102-6.
  2. Wan Y et al. ‘Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans’. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001 Nov;74(5):596-602.
  3. Grassi et al. ‘Blood pressure is reduced and insulin sensitivity increased in glucose-intolerant, hypertensive subjects after 15 days of consuming high-polyphenols dark chocolate’. Journal of Nutrition 138, 1671-1676.

 

It’s tennis and strawberries time in Wimbledon!

Red strawberry in a bowl on wooden background

We are very excited at Stella Nutrition because the Wimbledon tournament is almost here and so it’s the great tradition of having strawberries and cream. This combination was originally consumed by royalty, but it is now a ritual among all tournament fans.

Strawberries smell beautifully, taste delicious and they are also packed with nutrients. Provided you are not allergic to them, there are plenty of good reasons to add them to your summer menu.

They are an excellent source of vitamin c which is a powerful antioxidant protecting the body from free radicals damage. Vitamin c is also important for immunity, cardiovascular health, collagen formation, and cancer prevention.     Strawberries are also a great source of manganese, a vital mineral for bone health, blood sugar balance and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

This yummy fruits also contains various phytonutrients (plant based nutrients) including anthocyanins which provide them with their rich red colour and their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain decent amounts of potassium which is involved in regulating blood pressure.

Consuming berries, not just strawberries, has been associated with a decreased risk of developing many chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Strawberries are also low in sugar and rich in fibre, so they are great if you are trying to lose weight…..just go easy with the cream! You could try having them with a little plain yogurt instead.

The way I love to eat strawberries is very simple. I chop them, put them in a big bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and let them rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving them. This is a summer ‘dessert’ I grew up with in Italy and it reminds me of summer afternoons spent in the garden with friends and my dad playing guitar and singing. Simply perfect! However, if you find them too sour with just the lemon juice you could add a bit of xylitol on top.

May your summer be filled with juicy strawberries, warm sunshine and amazing tennis!

 For more information on how nutritional therapy can benefit you call 07772491975 or visit www.stellanutrition.com

Super foods: why you should be skeptical of trendy lists!

Super foods in spoons and bowls on a wooden background

If you read any nutrition magazine, or browse the internet for health related articles/blogs, you have probably come across some superfoods lists like the five top super foods to help you lose weight, or to get rid of wrinkles, fight disease, build muscle mass and so on.  Well, let me give you some bad news straight away.

Unfortunately there is no single food that will ever:

  • Make you lose weight.
  • Magically melt your fat away (Oh I wish!).
  • Build your muscles to make you look like Jessica Ennis (if you are a woman) or Jessie Pavelka (if you are a man).
  • Prevent or cure any disease.
  • Make you look 10 years younger.

Basically, there is no single magic food with super nutritional powers to do any of the above. Surprised? Keep reading because there is some good news too.

In nutritional terms a ‘super food’ is a nutrient dense food packed full of vitamins, minerals and other health promoting properties. However, in recent years there has been a huge amount of hype about ‘super foods’ which seem to come and go like funky trends. Some of them can be really expensive and this is also why I believe that now the term ‘super food’ is just another marketing trap and consumers should be aware of this and tread carefully!

Why? Because it is possible to eat healthily, consume plenty of nutrients rich foods without breaking the bank and without having to go to specific health food stores to find them.

Think about this for a minute, do you really need to buy goji berries, aronia berries, maca/lucuma/moringa powders, noni juice, kelp or teff? If you want to try something new or you like them already, then please do so and enjoy them. They are fantastic, nutrients rich foods but so are eggs, beetroots, garlic, broccoli, apples and sardines, for example.

What I am trying to say is that most unprocessed, natural and preferably organic ingredients (which you should be eating regularly anyway) like any fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds can be defined as super foods.

You also need to look at your overall eating habits, as no amount of goji berries, not even if consumed daily,  is going to make up for a generally poor diet.

So having said this, I am still going to give you a list of foods which can make a good addition to your diet. But fear not, as there are no trends in sight!

Here you are five of my favourite super foods which are neither expensive, nor exotic:

  • Eggs: great source of protein as well as iron, zinc, b vitamins and selenium. Eggs contain choline which is vital for brain function and memory. They are also easy and fast to cook.
  • Olive oil: well, I am Italian and I was raised with a Mediterranean diet which includes plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Use it raw on your salads or sprinkled on your vegetables once they are cooked. One of my favourite snacks is mixed raw (or lightly steamed) vegetables dipped in olive oil. It is called ‘pinzimonio’ in Italian and it can be used as a simple, yet delicious, appetizer.
  • Nuts and seeds: a handful of raw nuts or seeds make an easy portable snack. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, protein, omega 3 fatty acids and fibre. Store them in closed glass containers in the fridge as heat, air and light damage the beneficial oils in them and make them go rancid.
  • Avocados: rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, potassium and b vitamins. Add them to your salads, use them as a creamy alternative to mayonnaise or prepare them as a dip.
  • Green tea: rich in antioxidants. Studies have shown that green tea consumption can enhance our immune function, lower our risk of cardiovascular disease, and support a healthy metabolism. Try swapping your daily cappuccino for a cup of green tea instead, you will still get a kick from the caffeine but also a boost of antioxidants.

It is anybody’s guess what new super foods are waiting in the wings but, in the meantime, let’s think about keeping things simple, reducing sugar and all processed foods for a start. Let’s go back to the basics and forget about magic bullets.  You see, when it comes to health and nutrition, a lot of it is just common sense.

If you would like to know more about how nutrition can help you, please get in touch. Call 07772491975 or drop me an email at info@stellanutrition.com