Paleo Gluten/Sugar Free Apple Cake

This refined-sugar-free apple cake is made with layers of apple intermixed with a layer of a coconut flour batter and topped with cinnamon. This is a great way to use up coconut flour and it looks so delicious! It it served best with a custard, apple sauce/puree or frozen berries/coulis.

Ingredients
5 apples, thinly sliced
1 Tbs of cinnamon
½ cup coconut flour
¼ teaspoon of baking powder
6 eggs
½ cup coconut oil
½ tsp vanilla paste
⅛ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup stevia
(optional) 2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs coconut oil (one for greasing pan and one for topping)
Cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan forced, or 180°C normal oven)
  • Whisk eggs until fluffy then continue to whisk in the following ingredients: cinnamon, coconut flour, oil, vanilla, baking powder, nutmeg, stevia and honey (optional: may help bind it together a bit better)
  • Grease a round cake tin with coconut oil.Spread ⅓ of cake batter on the base of the tin and place a layer of overlaid apple slices on top. Repeat the above step 3 times and for the final layer carefully overlay apple slices in circular rows (as shown in the pictures). Brush the top of the apples with coconut oil.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes then run a knife around the edge to loosen it, then bring together the edges of both papers and holding the paper firmly carefully flip over.

Serve with custard, berries or apple sauce! Enjoy 🙂

Clara

Some Interesting Research on the Gut and the Brain

  1. The significance of the gut microbiome has been touched on before on this blog, but there is some interesting and relevant research that might change the way you think about what goes on between your brain and your gut bacteria!In one experiment, scientists observed two sets of mice: one group had had gut microbes, and the other group of mice were kept in sterile bubbles and had no microbes. The ones without microbes had less inhibition and were more prone to taking risks and exploring their environment. This meant more wondering about in open fields, and this reckless behaviour goes against years of mouse evolution and will likely lead them to getting eaten. These microbe-free mice also had memory-related defects. The two types of mice were put through some tests: they were given 5 minutes to explore two objects, and then the objects were removed for a while. One of the objects they’d seen was given back to them, along with a new one. The mice with the gut microbes only explored the new object and ignored the one they were familiar with, but the microbe-free mice paid the same amount of attention to both objects , behaving as if they’d completely forgotten about the object they’d just seen moments ago. It was thought that this memory deficiency in the microbiota-free mice was caused by lower levels of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is a powerful protein important for learning and memory; it stimulates production of new brain cells and protects existing ones, and low levels of it are linked to depression and anxiety. So can your microbiome influence personality? In 2011, a research group at McMaster University performed an experiment on two types of lab mice – one type were deemed anxious and withdrawn, and the other type were highly exploratory. They measured their extroversion by putting the two on a platform and seeing how long it took for them to explore the ledge and jump down (as expected, the anxious mice took longer). The researchers did a microbiota transplant between the mice and repeated the platform test – shockingly, the extroverted mice became timid and took far longer, with the previously anxious mice now unbothered by the ledge. Behaviour and anxiety changed depending on which microbes were living in their gut, and the newfound confidence was linked to more BDNF. Serious changes in brain chemistry are moderated by specific microbes in the gut. Of course, this is all research based on rodents, but it still stands to show that the gut is essentially a drug factory pumping out different substances that affect the brain. Now that’s something to think about when taking your probiotics!

     

    Clara

How to Effectively Change Your Diet

Making a change to your diet always sounds like such a great idea in your mind, but when it comes to implementation, it is slightly harder. You seem to find barriers everywhere, and it can take your motivation away. A change many people often make is towards a more plant-based diet – eating more vegetables and less meat. If this is something you are thinking of doing, then read on to see some tips that might be helpful in sticking to the change!The first tip is to start small.

Change only one or things that you are eating each week so that the changes feel much easier! Maybe try having one or two meat free meals a week to start with, and slowly increase that number if your goal is to cut out meat. Another good idea is to swap your processed snacks (chips, chocolate, etc.) for fruit. If you eat multiple snacks a day, just change one of them so that your body isn’t left craving the sugars it normally has. Remember, when changing your diet, you want it to be a lifestyle change, not a three week change. These things can take a lot of time to become accustomed to.It is also helpful to plan ahead of time, and to prepare your meals ahead of time, too. Take one day a week to grocery shop and prepare all of your meals for the rest of the week. This allows you to cook in bulk, saving you time later in the week, and gives you no excuses to not stick to the meals you had planned. If all your food is already sitting there perfectly prepared in the fridge, cheating on what you wanted to eat becomes that much sillier of a notion! Read more on meal prep for further needed!

The third tip is to create a variety of flavours in your cooking. If you are trying to enjoy more vegetables in your diet, adding different salad dressings to your foods works perfectly well to keep them new and exciting! Beware with salad dressings, though, that many store bought varieties are full of additives and added sugars as well. It is always best to make your own, which can be done quite easily with only a few ingredients. Have a look here for some quick and easy dressing recipes that can help to spice up your plate!

The last tip, and probably the easiest one to follow, is to start with foods you already love to eat! Massive fan of sweet potato? Have it in a stew or in place of chicken in a curry! Could nibble on carrots or celery all day? Then do! Use them as your snack foods! Don’t underestimate the power of the foods you really do like. It’s great to try new things, because you might find something new you like, but if zucchini just tastes so much better to you than brussel sprouts, then use it to your power! This may sound like common sense, but many people starting a new diet throw all of their old habits out of the window, when this shouldn’t necessarily be the case.

Hopefully these tips have helped you, and if you do decide to make a change to your diet in the future, good luck! And remember, all changes can start off small! This does not mean that they are insignificant.

Happy eating! Ebony

Green Tea and Your Skin

Tea is an ancient herbal drink known for its stimulant qualities largely attributed to caffeine. In modern times, it also became touted as a health food allegedly helpful in preventing or ameliorating a variety of conditions, from heart disease and cancer, to gum disease, skin aging and weight loss. The major types of tea include black, green and white, differing by the method of harvesting and processing. The medicinal properties of tea are attributed to polyphenols called catechins. Green tea has more catechins than black tea (about 25% vs 4%), and these polyphenols are anti-inflammatory and have DNA repair capabilities which can correct cellular mutations caused by free radicals.

There have been a number of encouraging studies of skin benefits of green tea. Animal studies showed protection from skin cancer. Both animal and human studies have credibly demonstrated that topical green tea formulations reduce sun damage. Green tea appears to exert sun damage protection by reducing inflammation rather than by blocking UV rays. It may therefore enhance sun protection when used in addition to a sunscreen. A small study showed benefits of 2% polyphenone (via a particular type of green tea extract) in rosacea – a significant reduction in inflammatory lesion was reported compared to placebo.

What about wrinkles, skin sag and other signs of aging? Can green tea help? Considering their well-documented antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, topical green tea polyphenols are likely to slow down the development of some signs of aging – whether green tea can actually diminish wrinkles and skin sag is more uncertain, but there is evidence that green tea may inhibit enzymes whose excessive activity contributes to age-related degradation of the skin!

These skin healing benefits definitely contribute to green tea’s title as one of the healthiest drinks out there!

 

Clara

The Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine is something that is often talked about, yet there are so many points of view on it and various studies that it feels like one week it is good for you, and the next it is terrible. The underlyer is that it is a stimulant often taken to decrease fatigue and improve focus. However, a moderate intake (~300mg/day, or 2-4 cups of coffee) has been found to be both beneficial and a risk, depending on the individual.

Caffeine is considered a stimulant as it helps to activate the central nervous system, which can happen as soon as 15 minutes after ingestion, and last up to 6 hours. Some studies have found that in moderate amounts, caffeine intake may reduce the risk of mouth, throat and liver cancer. In addition to this, it has found to possibly be protective against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and cardiovascular disease, as well as aiding long term memory. Furthermore, a study on 142 elderly people living on a Greek island, found that those with higher consumption of Greek coffee had greater endothelial functioning than those who drank less. Greek coffee is simply black coffee with very fine grounds in it. If you enjoy your coffee, this may be worth giving a go!

Through all of these great positive effects of drinking coffee, there are several negative ones as well. Moderate doses consumed by an individual who is pregnant can result in a higher risk of low birth weight babies, and higher doses (~500-600mg/day) can lead to insomnia, muscle tremors, upset stomachs, restlessness and irritability. This is just warning against having too much caffeine throughout the day, as it can lead to the above negative repercussions.

It is very important, though, to take this information with a grain of salt, as caffeine affects everyone in a different way. Those who smoke metabolise caffeine twice as fast as those who do not, and there are many other variables at play in how an individual digests it. As long as you are not continually exceeding 4 cups of coffee a day, and don’t have any underlying health problems it could exacerbate, then you will most likely not experience too many of the negative consequences! They are always a good thing to keep in mind though when consuming caffeine.

Ebony

How Exercise Stops Your IQ From Declining

Finding consistent motivation to exercise can be challenging. Sure, we all know exercise is good for us in many different ways and that there’s no shortage of reasons to hit the gym, but in my opinion, keeping your IQ from declining is the BEST reason to exercise that not many people know about.

The first thing to know about IQ is that it’s largely heritable, and this isn’t debated within the current body of research. It’s long been established that the genetic component of IQ hovers around 70%. The other 30% is mediated by environmental factors such as diet and other things that maximise healthy brain development in early life, like quality of education / brain stimulation (this works both ways – smart kids seek out more environmental stimulation, and more environmental stimulation creates smart kids).

The second thing to know about IQ is that it can be divided into two types, known as “fluid” or “crystallised” intelligence. Crystallised intelligence is your accumulated knowledge and experience, meaning things like general knowledge, your vocabulary and ability to do maths, etc. Your crystallised IQ improves over time as you go through life and gain more information and skills. On the other hand, your fluid intelligence is your capacity to deal with novel information. This means things like problem solving, abstract reasoning, creative visualisation and pattern recognition. The two have a dynamic relationship; fluid IQ moderates how much information you can take in and how fast you can take it in, meaning a higher fluid IQ increases your crystallised IQ. While there is theoretically no limit on how high you can take your crystallised intelligence, your fluid intelligence is on more of a what-you-were-born-with basis. Both types of IQ continue to increase up until your early 20’s, where they peak. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it stays for the rest of your life – fluid intelligence declines rapidly with age.

Why?

It all comes down to your cardiovascular system. The brain is an extremely physiologically demanding organ and needs large amounts of oxygen to function efficiently. If you stop exercising as you get older, your heart isn’t providing enough oxygen to supply your brain cells with energy to maintain and grow. Exercise also promotes the release of certain neurotransmitters and growth hormones that are crucial to the brain’s overall health, contributing to better concentration and memory.

A combination of cardio and weight lifting exercise a few days per week can forestall that IQ decline as you get older – who can think of a better reason to workout?

Clara

Low Carb Recipes and Food Swaps

If you’re battling with weight loss, or just looking for recipes lower in carbohydrates, this post is for you! I’ve gathered together some great low carb recipes, as well as some easy food swaps, that would be worth trying if you are interested!

One of the easiest ways to lower the caloric contribution of the carbohydrates that you consume is to swap out higher carb foods for lower carb substitutes. If you often have sweet or fruit flavoured yogurt, try changing it for greek yogurt, which you can sweeten yourself with honey. This way you control the amount of carbs in the yogurt, and there are much less additives and ingredients to worry about. A recent trend is to swap out the buns/bread on sandwiches or burgers to lettuce leaves instead. This still holds your food together, but provide about 0.5g of carbs, and if you’re not too sure on this one, ditch the bun altogether and have a deconstructed burger! Cauliflower rice is much lower in carbs than regular rice, and full of great vitamins, and homemade mayo/sauces/marinates are always better alternatives than their store bought counterparts. Many people also find success in replacing sugar with stevia, and fruit juice with flavoured water.

Recipe wise, have a look at the following and see if you’d like to implement any into your weekly diet!

Cauliflower Garlic Bread

Salmon with Veggie Chips

Chia, Almond and Cacao Balls

Low Carb Pancakes

Vegetarian Zucchini Lasagna

Vegan Shepherds Pie

Hopefully this post has helped you if you are looking into lower carbohydrate meal options, but let me know either way! Happy cooking!

Ebony