Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Celebrate the season’s bounty with soft, vegan, gluten-free cookies.

 

Move over apple pie! These apple oatmeal raisin cookies combine the flavors of fall with a hint of sweetness. The perfect solution for using up your apple-picking bounty, making these gluten-free, vegan cookies should be next on your fall bucket list. The only downside is that they go really well with a cup of hot coffee in the morning, so they may not last all day (you’ve been warned). #bakeitup  

Serves: 24-28 cookies

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed plus 4 tablespoons warm water

1 ½ cups oat flour (to make: blend together ~2 cups whole oats in food processor into a fine flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup creamy almond butter

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup Truvia brown sugar blend (I substituted ½ cup coconut sugar)

1 cup whole rolled oats

¾ cup finely chopped apple

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup raisins

 

Directions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.     In a small bowl, combine flaxseed and water. Set aside to thicken for 5 minutes.

3.     In a large bowl, stir together the oat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

4.     In a medium bowl, combine the almond butter, coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add the thickened flaxseed mixture and stir well.

5.     Stir the whole rolled oats, apples, walnuts, and raisins into the dry ingredients (large bowl). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well. Note: batter will be thick and sticky.

6.     Drop rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet and press down slightly. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the bottoms are nicely browned. (Note: do not under-bake or cookies may fall apart). Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before cooling completely on the wire rack.

Source: https://www.loveandlemons.com/apple-oatmeal-raisin-cookies/#more-28513

 

Superfood Spotlight: Turmeric
GO FOR THE GOLDen spice and tap into the myriad of health benefits that turmeric can provide.

GO FOR THE GOLDen spice and tap into the myriad of health benefits that turmeric can provide.

 

As the cooler temperatures move in, our cravings naturally shift from the lighter meals of summer towards heartier dishes made with warming spices and seasonings. Mother nature wisely nudges us to include more immune-boosting ingredients in our cooking this time of year (whether we realize it or not). Take a look around the farmer’s market and you’ll find seasonal harvest eager to give us the boost we need to stay healthy through the fall and winter months. Now is also the perfect time to incorporate superfood spices, such as turmeric, into your diet.

 

The basics

Native to southeast Asia, turmeric is commonly found in Indian cuisine. Part of the ginger family, turmeric can be purchased in fresh root form or as a ground spice. In the supermarket, you can find turmeric root located near ginger (it resembles the knotty root). Turmeric root should be stored in the refrigerator or it can be frozen until ready to use, while ground turmeric should be kept in a sealed container in a dry, cool place. Turmeric has a warm, peppery and slightly bitter flavor. Often associated with curry dishes, turmeric is a wonderful seasoning for roasted vegetables, can be used in soups or stews, added to smoothies, salad dressings, or eggs, grated directly onto dishes, or warmed up in a comforting cup of golden milk. There are multiple ways to add this delicious spice to your regimen—and reap the benefits.

 

The health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. The star compound in turmeric, curcumin, has been widely studied for it’s medicinal properties. Most notably, research suggests that curcumin is anti-inflammatory, meaning that it helps reduce swelling in the body. Over time, inflammation can cause chronic diseases and take a toll on our immune system. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may help alleviate arthritic joint pain and reduce muscle soreness (post-spin turmeric smoothie anyone?). Oh, and it can give your skin complexion a radiant glow.

A powerful antioxidant, curcumin may ward off certain types of cancers. It’s been shown to play a role in cellular detoxification (which also helps lower cancer risk) and improve liver function. Curcumin may help regulate blood sugar levels as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The healing compound can ease bloating, improve certain digestive diseases, and may even aid with weight loss. But that’s not all—curcumin may improve cognitive function, fight Alzheimer’s and elevate your mood. Is there anything this magical spice can’t do?

 

Important considerations

Before you get spice-happy, it’s important to know that how you consume turmeric matters. There are certain side effects of which to be mindful, so consider these points before you up your intake:

·      Bioavailability: turmeric has low bioavailability (ability to be absorbed by the body). Consuming along with black pepper has shown to improve absorption. The active compounds in turmeric are fat soluble, so it should be consumed with a fat source (such as healthy oils, coconut butter, ghee, yogurt, etc.).

·      Interactions: turmeric may interfere with anticoagulant medications that are used to slow blood clotting. If you are taking such medications, you should not increase your turmeric consumption or take a curcumin supplement.*

·      Stomach upset: for some, turmeric may cause irritation to the stomach. If you find that increasing your consumption negatively impacts digestion, stop or reduce your intake and monitor how you feel.  

·      Stain: turmeric is used as a natural food dye…therefore it can stain, so be careful!

·      Quality of supplements: for optimum results, it is best to consume turmeric in food form (vs. pill). If you choose to take a turmeric or curcumin supplement, opt for organic and select a good brand as the quality of supplements can vary. Also check to make sure the capsule includes black pepper.

·      Dosage: it’s important to note that the dosage used in research studies is usually quite high compared to what you would typically consume at home in one meal or drink. To reap the benefits, try using the spice daily in multiple ways so that the dosage of curcumin adds up.

·      Research: most of the research has been conducted in labs or is preliminary, so more clinical research needs to be done before conclusive evidence on the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin can be confirmed for humans.

Turmeric is no new kid on the block, yet it’s recent bump in popularity has led to wider availability of turmeric lattes and golden milks at various juice and coffee shops. While fresh ingredients often yield the best results, you can find powdered mixes that allow you to enjoy a turmeric tonic at home in no time (the gaia golden milk blend rocks, btw). Try this golden milk recipe at home and relax with a nourishing cup of liquid gold.

 

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Golden turmeric milk

Ingredients:

8 ounces organic cashew milk (or coconut milk/other nut milk)

1 heaping teaspoon of chopped turmeric (can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric)

1 heaping teaspoon chopped ginger (can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)

1-2 teaspoons coconut butter (or coconut oil)

1-2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup, depending on preferred level of sweetness

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

freshly cracked ground black pepper

dash of sea salt

Optional additions:

1 tablespoon collagen peptides

adaptogens of choice

 

Instructions

Heat milk on the stove until just simmering. Combine remaining ingredients in blender. When milk is hot, add it to the blender and blitz with the rest of the ingredients. Enjoy with an added dash of cinnamon or turmeric on top or garnish with a cinnamon stick.

*As always check with your primary physician before making dietary adjustments to treat health conditions.

Fall Favorites: Pumpkin Smoothie
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It’s officially fall, and we’ve got #allthehearteyes for pumpkin flavored recipes. To kick off our fall recipe series is a pumpkin smoothie. High in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin is great for helping you feel full—a definite plus for a smoothie ingredient. Loaded with electrolytes (such as potassium), it and can help restore electrolyte balance while also replenishing glycogen stores after an intense workout. Pumpkin also contains carotenoids such as (most notably) beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants fight free radical damage and are important for preventing cardiovascular disease and protecting eye health. Both vitamin A and vitamin C (yep, pumpkin has that, too) may boost immunity. As with any smoothie recipe, the ingredients can be adjusted to fit your preference—just don’t skimp on the pumpkin.

Makes 1 serving.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup organic pumpkin

1 cup coconut milk (or substitute nut milk of choice, such as cashew or almond)

1 carrot, roughly chopped

2-3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

½ teaspoon pumpkin spice (or you can use approximately 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon minced ginger root or ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and a dash of nutmeg and clove)

1 frozen banana

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Medjool date, pitted (optional, to add a bit of sweetness)

1 tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flaxseeds (optional)

A few chunks of frozen coconut meat (optional) – available at Trader Joes

Collagen peptides or protein powder (optional)

Ice cubes as needed

Topping ideas include: pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts, dash of cinnamon, granola, or drizzle of nut butter.

 

Directions:

1.  Blend all ingredients. Modify as needed to fit your taste preference, and enjoy!

Source: recipe inspired by our in-house powerhouse, Emily C.

 

Stay tuned for more of our favorite fall recipes!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

Let the pumpkin party continue with pumpkin pancakes! This healthy version of pumpkin pancakes is just the right combination of being fluffy yet dense and less sweet than your typical recipe. It just may be the perfect breakfast to cozy up with on a brisk fall morning.

 

Serves: 2-3 (makes approximately 7 pancakes)

 

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree

¼ cup almond milk (or milk of choice)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup out flour (to make your own oat flour, grind 1 cup of old-fashion oats in a food processor)

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

 

Directions:

1.     Mix together the pumpkin puree, milk, coconut oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and vanilla. Beat in the eggs.

2.     In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

3.     Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened, but do not overmix. Let stand 10 minutes.

4.     Heat a heavy cast iron skillet/non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Lightly oil the pan with coconut oil.

5.     Once the pan is hot enough (a drop of water will sizzle), pour ¼ cup batter on the pan for each pancake. Let cook for about 3 minutes, then flip to the alternate side and cook for an additional 90 seconds until it is golden brown (you may need to adjust heat).*

6.     Serve immediately!

*Note: this whole grain batter is thicker than most, so it is easier to go by the approximate cooking time rather than trying to gauge when the pancakes are ready to flip.

 

Source: https://cookieandkate.com/2013/pumpkin-oat-pancakes/

A.M. BOOST: Jumpstart your morning with these daily drinks

Grab an immune-boosting beverage first thing in the morning and start your day off right. Your coffee fix can wait.

 

At Ascend, we’re always striving to increase our vitality, both in and out of the studio. Each day, we have the opportunity to engage in healthy habits that feed this process—and building these rituals into a morning routine is something we encourage. When we choose to eat and drink nourishing foods, we are supplying our body with what it needs for peak performance. A daily detox drink is a great way to show your body some love and flush it with support first thing upon waking.

More important than following cleanses or detox diets that tout the benefits of eliminating toxins from your body (though catchy) is to develop daily habits that support our body’s natural detoxification processes. Our bodies know what to do, and do a pretty damn good job at removing toxins and keeping us in balance. But even the healthiest of folks have many internal and external stressors that can upset the digestive system and weaken the immune system. With the cold and flu season approaching, it might be time to tweak your beverage line up and give your immune system an extra boost.

 

Rise and Thrive Tonics

Support your digestive system with these immune-boosting drinks:

Lemon water: Sipping water with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice is a simple health habit that can easily be added to your morning regimen. In general, drinking a tall glass of water is a wonderful way to rehydrate after a night of sleep when we lose moisture from respiration and basically fast by not eating or drinking for a stretch of time. Now, add the benefits of lovely lemons. Accessible and affordable, lemons are cleansing, a great source of vitamin C, and act as a digestive aid. Plus, they taste incredibly refreshing. Warm lemon water is especially helpful in supporting your digestion (i.e. moving things along).

Apple cider vinegar: When you’re looking for more than lemon water, amp up the benefits of your morning tonic by adding apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar can help balance the body’s pH since it acts as an alkalizing agent, and can improve gut health (due to malic acid). It also helps balance blood sugar and curb cravings. Consuming apple cider vinegar can help increase the absorption of nutrients from food. Like lemons, this ingredient can be used in salad dressings, sauces, or sprinkled directly on food. For a morning beverage, add 1-2 tablespoons to a glass of cool or warm water (we’d advise against drinking this stuff straight up). Throw in some lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper to give your metabolism an extra kick.

Ginger & turmeric shot: This shot is guaranteed to perk you right up in the morning. The combination of ginger and turmeric packs a powerful anti-inflammatory punch. Ginger is rich in antioxidants, acts as a digestive aid, and is beneficial for healthy gut bacteria. In addition to combating inflammation, turmeric can boost metabolism, help stave off cancer, and improve oxygen transport throughout the body. It may also give your skin an added glow. Ginger and turmeric can be juiced alone, or you can stir in a little sweetener (such as honey or maple syrup). If you find sipping a shot of ginger and turmeric to be a bit aggressive, you can steep turmeric root and ginger in hot water or tea, strain, and add some lemon.

Chlorophyll H20: Chlorophyll is a pigment found in green plants and algae that is responsible for photosynthesis—the process of absorbing light from the sun and converting it into energy used for food (aren’t plants amazing?). Chlorophyll has strong antioxidant and anticancer properties. It helps the body fight oxidation and can interfere with the way carcinogens are absorbed in the GI tract. It can also improve liver detoxification (it binds to and removes heavy metals and alcohol), helps with gastrointestinal problems, builds red blood cells, and is a natural deodorizer. While you consume chlorophyll when you eat plants with a green hue, adding extra chlorophyll to your routine is ideal for when you may not be getting enough greens in your diet.

Liquid chlorophyll drops are sold in health food stores and are made with chlorophyllins, a semi-synthetic form of chlorophyll that is shelf-stable and water-soluble. The liquid drops have a more mild taste compared with chlorophyll powder or chewable tablets. The liquid drops also come in mint flavor (a favorite). Try sprinkling a few drops in your morning lemon water.

 

Bonus beverages

Numerous other drinks can be healthy additions to your diet. Two drinks to reach for on an as-needed basis and are loaded with nutrients, include: 

·      Green juice: Freshly juiced vegetables and greens are a great way to flood your body with vitamins and minerals. While it may not be feasible to enjoy a green juice every day, look to this beverage to get back on track after an over-indulgent weekend or when you want a natural dose of energy.

·      Bone broth: As we enter the cooler seasons (read: more germs) you may want to consider rotating bone broth into your routine, especially if you’re feeling under the weather. Bone broth provides collagen, gelatin and amino acids that can help promote healthy gut integrity, enhance nutrient absorption, and protect bone health. It may improve the health of your hair, skin and nails, too. Regardless of the touted health benefits, sipping a piping hot mug of homemade broth is simply comforting.

If you decide to give any of these drinks a try, tag @ascendcycle and let us know if you feel a difference!  

Breakfast Tacos: Elevate your morning meal.

Want to take your breakfast up a notch? Tacos are the answer—they are delicious, healthy, and satisfying (and oh so simple). What’s not to love?

 

Morning, noon, or night, tacos are always a hit. Always. And breakfast tacos could not be easier. All you need are tortillas, a spread or sauce, eggs, and toppings of your choice. Together, protein-packed eggs, healthy fat from avocado, and vibrant veggies create a nourishing meal that will carry you through to lunch. And yes, you can eat breakfast tacos for lunch and dinner, too. In fact, they are perfect for using up what may be left hiding in your fridge at week’s end, or when you just want something satisfying yet quick.  

 

The beauty of breakfast tacos is that you can be adventurous or simplistic with the ingredients, there is no right or wrong. Listed below are the ingredients for the tacos pictured here, but you can experiment with endless options.*

 

Makes 1-2 servings.

 

Ingredients:

2 wheat flour tortillas - smaller corn tortillas work well too (and are gluten-free)  

1 taco has ½ smashed avocado, the other taco has 2 Tbsp hummus, smeared

2 eggs, fried in ghee

2 radishes, thinly sliced

Heaping handful of spinach, sautéed in ghee

¼ cup roasted broccoli (leftover from a previous meal)

Sunflower microgreens

Black pepper

Pink Himalayan salt

 

Directions:

1.  Warm up your tortillas in a skillet with a little oil over medium high heat for a couple minutes on each side.

2.  Using a drizzle of olive oil or ghee, sauté the spinach. Sprinkle with salt. Wipe pan, and add a bit of ghee to fry each egg (scrambled eggs work well too).

3.  While the eggs are cooking, spread your base on the warmed tortillas (1 with ½ avocado, 1 with 2 Tbsp hummus). Next, add your sautéed spinach to each tortilla and top with the cooked egg. Layer on the toppings: roasted broccoli, radishes, and microgreens. Finish with a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy immediately.

*Additional taco filling and garnish options, include: scrambled eggs, black beans, feta cheese, roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, cauliflower, squash), sautéed kale, chopped romaine, cilantro, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, pickled or raw red onions, sesame seeds, salsa, cashew cream, tahini drizzle, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, sliced jalapenos, lime juice, or turmeric.

 

Blogpost written by content expert, Ashley Hart

Fall into a Healthy Routine
Seasons are changing; learn how to build healthy habits and revamp your fall routine.

Seasons are changing; learn how to build healthy habits and revamp your fall routine.

September brings cooler temperatures, pumpkin-spiced everything, and the transition from laid back summer vibes to more structured school or work schedules. Suddenly our mornings feel busier, clients are back from vacations with new demands, and we’ve got packed lunches on the brain. Luckily, with the change of seasons comes the opportunity to re-evaluate our health goals and observe what stands in our way of reaching them. We’ve got ten tips to help you embrace a new routine with ease while keeping your wellness (and sanity) in check.

Plan, baby, plan

Sure it may sound boring, but being organized is key to creating and implementing healthy changes in your routine. A little preparation can go a long way. While this will take some energy, it will eventually feel like it requires minimal effort.

Revamp your fall routine with these 10 tips:

1.    Write down your goal.

A straightforward and important first step is to identify what health goal you want to achieve and write it down. Remember, small steps lead to big change. Keep your goal in mind as you structure daily and weekly activities so you can prioritize actions that serve this goal. Keep it realistic, and find ways to track and measure your progress. 

2.    Plan 3 dinner meals.

Planning out an entire week’s worth of meals may not be your thing. No worries—try planning just three weeknight dinners at a time. This allows flexibility should your schedule shift, and prevents waste from perishable items that don’t get used. Try simple dinners that take minimal prep time and take advantage of the Crockpot during the cooler months. Just knowing what to prepare will save you mental energy. Read more about food prep here.

3.    Double it up.

When preparing breakfast, lunch, or dinner, try to double (or triple) your servings. Less time and effort is used making larger quantities of the same food than starting from scratch with multiple clean-ups required. Try making a large batch of overnight oats or chia pudding to get you through several breakfast meals. Ready-to-eat food at your fingertips will save precious time when the morning rush hits. Pre-packing several lunches for the week can be a great time saver.

4.    Have a back up meal in your pantry.

Having a healthy “go to” meal with limited perishable ingredients can save you in a pinch. For example, whole grain noodles with pesto and white beans can be served in a flashed. Chicken sausage with frozen vegetables is a quick freezer-ready meal (thanks @joe_ascendcycle). Stock up on a few options and replenish as needed so you always have nourishing food at hand.

5.    Balance your meals.

Beyond planning when you will eat, emphasis should be placed on what you eat. Balancing out your meals with fiber, good quality protein, and healthy fats will keep you satisfied and ensure that your blood sugar levels stay in check between meals. Adding a mix of fresh and cooked vegetables will supply your body with vitamins and minerals.

6.    Be prepared with healthy snacks.

Stash nutritious snacks at your desk, in your purse or bag, or your car (especially if you have children) so that you are well prepared to keep hunger (and tantrums) at bay.

7.    Use a meal or grocery delivery service.

If you are truly pinched for time, using a meal delivery service may be worth the cost. Joining this growing industry are many companies that offer healthy meals with options to fit your lifestyle and dietary preferences. Check out @territoryfoods (located here in Del Ray) or @vegetableandbutcher serving parts of the DMV. For groceries, many stores offer online ordering or delivery. Some stores offer discounts on first orders.

8.    Create a new morning and evening routine. 

This is a big one, folks. How you choose to start your morning can set the tone for the entire day. First, try to get enough sleep so you can wake up a little earlier and have some designated time for yourself. Fit in a workout, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while reading the news, listen to a podcast and make your to-do list, meditate, take the dog for a longer walk—whatever makes you feel calm and mindful is worth sacrificing a few extra minutes of shut eye. If you struggle with waking up early, try incorporating healthy habits into your routine such as drinking lemon water upon waking, eating a healthy breakfast, or setting your intentions for the day.

Evening routines are also valuable. Go for a walk, read, take a bath, phone a friend, unwind and connect with others or spend a little time reconnecting with you. Then, spend a little time planning for the next day. Prep your breakfast or lunch, pre-set the coffee maker, pack your workout gear; these small steps can help make your morning run more smoothly which keeps you (and those around you) more calm.

9.    Beat the afternoon slump.

If you’re prone to the afternoon slump, try eating frequent small meals to keep energy levels stable. Resist the sugar or caffeine cravings and reach for tea or herbal tonics. Recharge outdoors with some fresh air. Just a short break outside can do wonders for managing stress, which in turn, steers us towards making healthier choices. Be prepared with options and act before sluggishness sets in.

10.  Schedule your workouts.

Obviously, we saved the best for last! Scheduling your workouts is an excellent way to prioritize your fitness. Hence, why the Ascend schedule opens every Sunday at 4:00 pm for the next two weeks. Plus, we’re more likely to show up when exercise becomes social. So grab a bike and come sweat with your friends in the community!

We hope these tips inspire you to make small changes in your fall routine that can lead to long-lasting wellness.

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H.

Key Lime Pie Chia Pudding

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut milk

½ a medium-sized ripe avocado, pitted and peeled

¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

¼ cup pure maple syrup

3 Tbsp coconut butter

1/8 tsp fine sea salt

¼ cup chia seeds

Topping ideas:

·      Coconut whipped cream (pictured)

·      Aquafaba meringue

·      Coconut sugar

·      Crushed graham crackers

·      Dried mulberries

·      Lime zest

Instructions:

1.     In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine the coconut milk, avocado, lime juice, maple syrup, coconut butter and sea salt. Blend until completely smooth and pour into a medium-sized airtight container. Whisk in the chia seeds until they’re evenly distributed throughout the liquid, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

2.     Once the chia pudding has chilled, vigorously whisk to redistribute the chia seeds. If the pudding seems too thin, add in more chia seeds, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired texture is reached. The pudding will continue to thicken as the newly-added chia seeds expand, so keep this in mind if you opt to add more.

3.     Divide the pudding between small jars or glasses and top as desired. Enjoy within 2 days.

Source: http://www.blissfulbasil.com/key-lime-pie-chia-pudding/

Kat Zajac
Superfood Spotlight: Nutty for Coconuts
Is this health food all it’s cracked up to be?

Is this health food all it’s cracked up to be?

 

Coconuts have claimed superfood status in recent years—and for good reason. Coconut products such as coconut oil, coconut butter, and coconut milk can surely amp up the flavor of food (is coconut addiction a thing?). But while the popularity of coconut products has been on the rise, skepticism still exists regarding the high saturated fat content naturally found in the tropical fruit. With differing opinions, it can be confusing to know which guidance should be followed. We’ll review the facts about this functional food, and provide our take on how coconut products can be incorporated into your wellness routine.

Facts about the f-word

Let’s get something straight: healthy fats are our friends. Fat should not be feared as it has many healthy benefits ranging from regulating hormones and absorption of certain nutrients to building brain cells. Restricting too much fat from our diets (think Snackwells era) only filled us with more sugar and additives that did not do our minds or bodies any favors. Thankfully, our mindsets have changed to embrace the goodness that healthy fats can provide when consumed as part of a balanced diet. However, different types of fat impact our bodies differently. Let’s take a look at what is coined as the “bad” fats:

Trans fats: It is advised to avoid trans fats in order to protect against heart disease. Trans fatty acids, or partially hydrogenated oils, are found in many fried foods and processed foods such as pastries, cookies and crackers. Trans fats are the real villains as they both raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing heart disease risk. They provide no health benefits to us and therefore should be avoided as much as possible. Rather than relying on the nutrition facts label on products (anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving can be listed as 0g), check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oils—then steer clear.  

Saturated fat: Sources of saturated fat include animal and dairy products as well as coconut, coconut oil, and palm oil. Based on scientific research, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated fat due to its correlation with increasing cholesterol and risk of heart disease. However, research does not show that saturated fat from coconut oil negatively effects cholesterol. While coconut oil does raise total cholesterol, it also raises HDL (good) cholesterol and improves the quality of the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Therefore, certain forms of saturated fat may not be as bad as once thought when consumed as part of a healthy diet.

How is coconut different? Hello MCT!

Coconut oil comes from the meat of the coconut, which is comprised of nearly 90 percent saturated fat. Of this, nearly 65% of the fatty acids are medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) or medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Nerd alert: there are three types of saturated fat, categorized by the number of carbon atoms present. Short chain fatty acids have 6 or fewer carbon atoms, medium chain fatty acids have 8-10, and long chain fatty acids contain 12 or more. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid—a fatty acid that is abundant in breast milk and beneficial for increasing immunity.

Most of the fats we consume in our diet are long-chain fatty acids. These are not easily absorbed in our intestines, require pancreatic enzymes and bile salts to help break them down, then go through a complicated process of delivery to tissues before being transported to the liver and metabolized for energy.  MCTs are different as they are more easily absorbed in the intestines. They do not require work from your pancreas for breakdown, are transported straight to the liver via the bloodstream, and can supply immediate energy. So while coconut oil is comprised of high amounts of saturated fat, it does not have the same effect on the body as other sources. Bottom line: MCTs result in faster energy and store very little fat in tissues.

Health benefits of coconut oil

In addition to boosting energy, coconut oil has been linked with the following health benefits (though more conclusive research is needed):

·      Does not adversely affect cholesterol

·      Helps immunity

·      Has antimicrobial and antifungal properties (due to lauric acid)

·      May help with weight loss and reduction of belly fat

·      Boosts metabolism

·      Improves gut and digestive health

·      Supports the body’s natural hormone production

·      May enhances mental performance and focus

·      Contains antioxidants which helps protect against chronic disease

·      May improve thyroid function

A jar of coconut oil goes a long way. In addition to its edible qualities, there are numerous natural remedies for this product. It can be used as part of your oral hygiene routine (oil pulling), serves as a great skin moisturizer, or can be used as a conditioner to provide nourishment to your hair.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate coconut products into your diet, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten ideas to try:

1.     Add a scoop of coconut butter or coconut oil to your breakfast smoothie.

2.     Stir coconut oil or coconut butter in your oatmeal.

3.     Coconut butter serves as a great butter replacement. Spread on whole grain toast or baked sweet potatoes.

4.     Coconut oil has a high smoke point (meaning it remains stable at high temperatures), so it works well for dishes that require high cooking temperatures such as a stir-fry.

5.     Coconut milk is delicious and works beautifully in curry or other Thai dishes. It can be used to add creaminess to soups, overnight oats, lattes, smoothies, or chia pudding.

6.     Coconut flakes can be used in baking, making energy balls, or topping your favorite smoothie. Add coconut flakes to homemade trail mix for a crunchy snack.

7.     Coconut water contains electrolytes and can help you stay hydrated.  

8.     Coconut yogurt is a great dairy alternative.

9.     Coconut flour can be used in baking and adds more nutritional value than white flour. It is also gluten-free and high in protein.

10. Coconut aminos is comparable to soy sauce or tamari and can be used as an alternative seasoning for those with soy or wheat allergies.

The takeaway: Any energy-dense food should be consumed in moderation (as too many calories from anything can lead to weight gain). Go ahead and enjoy the wonderful flavor attributes and health benefits of coconut and coconut oil—just don’t go too crazy.

 

Blogpost written by Ascend Content Expert, Ashley H

Kat Zajac
Brain Booster Smoothie
A smoothie full of antioxidants from blueberries, kale, and cinnamon plus the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts will certainly give your brain (and mood) a boost! 

A smoothie full of antioxidants from blueberries, kale, and cinnamon plus the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts will certainly give your brain (and mood) a boost! 

Makes two servings
 

Ingredients:

1/2 banana, frozen

1 1/2 cups blueberries, frozen

1 1/2 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk)

2 Tbsp walnuts, chopped

1 cup kale, leaves only, tightly packed

1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground

 

Directions:

Wash and prep all ingredients. Blend and serve.

Source: kriscarr.com