Chocolate – It’s a Hard Habit to Break

Our society has a serious chocolate addiction, to the tune of eleven pounds per person per year. (2.8 billion pounds in the US alone.)

We eat it for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, and any other celebration we can think of. And if we can’t think of one, we eat it anyway, just for the sheer joy of it. (I know I do.)


Chocolate has many health benefits. Like these:

– It is an antioxidant, which basically means it can prevent, or at least slow down, damage to the cells.
– It can improve blood pressure.
– It improves our mood (just looking at it makes me happy).
– It helps prevent cardiovascular disease.

Knowing all these benefits encourages me to eat this treat daily. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I am allergic to two main ingredients in most chocolate bars: sugar, and milk.

While neither sugar (in moderation) or milk (also in moderation) are probably not going to kill you, they have become popular ingredients added to many of our foods. It’s crazy. Just check out boxes in the cereal aisle, gum, candy (obviously), processed soups, and frozen foods. Milk and sugar are over-used, and over-processed, and have become an allergen for many people.

To top it off, the chocolate in most bars isn’t always the highest quality, and sometimes a few extra (unhealthy) ingredients are tossed in for good measure.

So, what we do when all we want is chocolate that is great tasting, and healthy for us as well? Why, we make it, of course.

In the book “Nourishing Traditions,” by Sally Fallon, I found a simple recipe for fudge. Believe me, once you eat this, you will never want a store-bought bar again.

THE RECIPE:

In a large bowl, mix:

1 cup melted real butter or coconut oil. I know, fat, right? But (healthy) fat is necessary for our brains to keep their thinking power, and our bodies to work in the amazing way they do. Butter has vitamins D, E, K, and A, and also protects against tooth decay. Coconut oil (which is what I use), prevents high blood pressure and heart disease, reduces inflammation, and improves energy. The way I eat this stuff, I should never have an ounce of inflammation in my body.

1 cup raw, organic cocoa.

1 cup raw, organic honey. (Since I don’t eat cane sugar, I am sensitive to anything sweet, so I do closer to 1/2 cup – but that’s your call).

Mix well before pouring into a 9 x 13 pan lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer. (Note – This bar needs to be kept frozen, or all you’ll have is a pile of chocolate goo. Still tasty, but a lot messier.)

*You can also add shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, macadamias, or even cocoa nibs. A sprinkle of sea salt on the top is a yummy touch. Oh, and I love a dash of cinnamon in mine.

That’s it! Healthy fudgy goodness. And it’s good for you, too!

Side notes: There are 48 teaspoons of sugar in one cup of honey. If you cut the chocolate into 48 bars, each one has one teaspoon. Depending on which site you read, we shouldn’t eat more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day (the lower being for women or those who consume less calories, the higher for men). That doesn’t mean you should eat 6-9 of these, it means take it into consideration when adding this treat to your daily diet.

Enjoy! Let me know if you make this tasty treat, and what additions you added.

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Simple Tricks to a Healthier You

In this modern world of technology and medical advancement, staying healthy should be easier than ever before. But the fact is, the health of our world is declining. We are facing epidemics never seen, rising at alarming rates in both adults and children: Autism, obesity, diabetes, and cancers, to name but a few.

There are many factors on which we can place the blame: GMOs, processed foods, food colorings, an overabundance of vaccines, overuse of antibiotics, high fructose corn syrup, pollution, pesticides and herbicides, and the list goes on.

It sometimes feels as if we are doomed. Because, let’s face it, when it comes to what is sold in the marketplace, what is placed on crops, and what is given to society, it seems as if we don’t have a lot of say. Much of the control is placed in the hands of large corporations.

But believe it or not, corporations listen. They hear what you say every time you go to the store. When we buy foods with pesticides, we tell them it is okay. When we purchase a quick meal laced with food colorings and additives we can’t pronounce, we are giving them the go-ahead to make more.

It’s true that sometimes no matter what we do, no matter how healthy we eat or how great of shape we are in, we can still get sick. It is an imperfect world, after all. But while we’re on this earth, shouldn’t we do our best to take care of ourselves? If not for us, then for the ones who follow.

I encourage you to do one thing to change your health. To better the world. To make the world a better place for future generations.

You don’t have to do it all. Pick one, and see the changes in your health.

Pick One:

~ Buy organic. If you can’t purchase all organic, purchase produce from the Dirty Dozen.

~ Stop buying pre-made frozen meals and meals in a can.

~ Don’t buy factory-farm meat.

~ Don’t buy soda.

~ Refuse anything with food colorings and multiple (unknown) ingredients. (Thankfully, some of the problems with food colorings are getting cleaned up, and now more colorings are natural-based, such as beets being used for the color red.)

Pick one. Change your health. Your body will thank you.

I’d love to hear about the changes you are making for better health. Leave me a note below.

Have a simply lovely, and healthy, day!

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How Letting Go of Worry Made Me Courageous, and a Survivor

I come from a line of strong women, who faced courageous battles like single parenthood, and cancer. But the biggest battle I’d ever seen fought by a woman in our family, was the one my grandma fought nearly every day of her life.

Grandma was struck with polio at the age of eleven. Even though she never had use of her legs, she managed to have a great life. She celebrated childhood (from what I’ve been told), married, raised five children, and helped raise me.

Grandma was strength and courage, resilience and grace. She could bake, cook, pull herself across a floor, and even swim the length of a pool. Her physical abilities never ceased to amaze me. But what amazed me more than her powerful arms was her ability to stay courageous in the face of danger.

One summer day, my dad took our family on a drive. We stopped at a park, and as I played on the swings, my grandma sat in the front seat of the car, door open wide, legs dangling in the sun.

A large German shepherd bounded across the grass, headed straight towards Grandma. It was too late for her to lift her legs and pull the door closed. The German shepherd was upon her, grabbing her flesh between his teeth.

I remember Grandma’s face right before that bite, how surprised she looked. Surprised, but never scared.

Grandma’s courage showed up again a few years later. While my mom and dad were out for the night, wild winds blew through our small town. Hail pounded on the roof. The sky turned green.

I clung to Grandma’s fleshy arm as she held my little brother in her lap. I began to sob. “I’m scared,” I said.

“There’s nothing to worry about. This, too, will pass.” Grandma said in a calm, even tone.

The storm increased in intensity. Winds blew harder. Branches snapped. The lights went out. Grandma picked up a pillow and handed it to me.

“Take your brother to the basement,” she said.

I knew Grandma couldn’t go with us. Her legs couldn’t carry her, and I couldn’t help. But I also knew I could never leave her alone.

I looked into her deep, dark eyes, the ones that matched my own. She was brave and strong, nothing like me. But she was everything I wanted to be. I stood up tall, and for the first time, I defied her. “I’m staying with you,” I said.

She smiled, and pulled me close. I stood next to the wheelchair, arms wrapped around her neck, my brother’s head close to her chest. She sang and told stories as the storm whipped around us. The storm damaged a lot that night, but inside, we were safe, secure, in the arms of a grandma.

Grandma passed many years ago. I was with her as she took her last breath. As her eyes closed for the very last time, they met mine, and inside, I swear she held a secret.

I’d always wondered about her secret, how she stayed so strong, how she always seemed brave, and wondered why I couldn’t be the same way. I’d never asked her, and she never told me. I think it was one of those life lessons she wanted me to learn. One day I would.

Over the years, I faced many battles. Threatened with cancer, and been the victim of a brain injury. Because of my grandma, I am here. Because of her secrets.

I looked for those secrets for a long time, tried to find strength and courage, but it wasn’t until I had a brain injury that it began to make sense.

The injury caused me to worry, more than I ever had. I used to worry about others, but after the accident, I worried about me. I worried about never getting better, and getting better but not being the same. I worried about being reinjured, about my brain failing, and pains that never went away. I worried about every little scratch and ding on my body.

One day, in the throes of worry, I realized something. Worrying wasn’t making me better. In fact, it seemed to be making me worse. Over time, I began to let go of worry.

A funny thing happened as worry went away. I became stronger. And when I got stronger, confidence arrived. With confidence came less fear, and with less fear, I found courage.

And then I got it.

Courage wasn’t about fear. Courage was about not worrying. Courage was faith. And faith was something Grandma always had.

I guess Grandma had to learn a lot about faith when she was little, when a disease removed the use of her legs. She learned to trust others when she was carried from a burning building, and learned to have faith when wheeled across a busy street. Because she had faith, she didn’t worry, and because she didn’t worry, she was strong and courageous.

Worry was pointless. It was better to be brave.

Because of my grandma, I am here today. No longer a victim, only a survivor. I have let go of worry, and I can tell you, it has truly let go of me.

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The Circle of Healthy Living

They say what goes around comes around, or is it the other way around? I can never remember. In any case, it’s a circle. This is true in every area of our lives, how we treat others, good or bad, and even how we treat ourselves. And it is never truer than in our health. I recently discovered this in my own life.

I’ve always been a bit of a health nut, but lately, due to food and pollen allergies, I’ve pushed my healthy living up a few notches. I am determined to one day see my allergies disappear, or if nothing else, at least make them less severe. But even if they never totally go away, this healthy lifestyle is sure to benefit me. How do I know? Because of the circle.

Three weeks ago, after seeing the doctor, I tossed the remaining processed foods from our home. I made homemade tomato-less ketchup, nut and seed bread, chicken stock, and carob fudge. My eating became all clean, whole foods. And this is what happened. . .

I lost a few pounds. My husband lost some weight as well (because he is forced to eat whatever I eat, and being the good sport that he is, he does it without complaining). We are both sleeping better, feeling better, and waking up a bit more energized (often before the alarm goes off).

You know what? I love having energy. Because when I have energy, I exercise more. And when I exercise more, I want to eat healthier. And when I eat healthier, I have more energy. See how that works? A circle.

Jump on the circle with me. You’ll love the ride. Pick one thing to jumpstart your health. It doesn’t have to be big. Just one small change will lead to another, which leads to another, until soon, you will be on your own circle to a healthier life.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Drink more water.
2. Cut out processed foods.
3. Don’t eat out as often.
4. Add more veggies to your diet.
5. Walk daily.
6. Do push-ups, or sit-ups, or lift a few weights.
7. Do yoga.

Happy Healthy Living!

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Learning to Adapt

Some of us are better at adapting than others. I can adapt to weather changes, changing my furniture around, even moving 1900 miles from where I grew up wasn’t hard. But changing the way I eat? That’s a different story.

It began soon after my brain injury. Within one month, I visited the emergency room twice and urgent care once (or maybe it was the other way around, and maybe it was more – this is where my brain gets confused). It seems I had acquired chemical allergies and a whole host of food allergies, which were revealed to me later by my doctor.

Allergies, along with all kinds of bizarre symptoms, can appear after brain trauma, though it’s hard to say if they are lurking in the system, and the injury causes them to come out, or if they are the direct result of the brain injury. (www.holisticprimarycare.net) In any case, I had a new list of items I could no longer eat.

I’d long been allergic to dairy, and avoided it best I could. When I was given this new list, I listened to my doctor, and stayed away like a good girl. But I am human, and a girl, and I have cravings. Like yeast. And sugar. I wanted French bread, and I wanted the sugary cupcakes at the birthday parties we attended. It wasn’t long before I gave in. Nothing major happened when I ate sugar and yeast, just a few little patches of red skin, and an irritated throat. Warning signals I chose to ignore.

Do you know what happens when you don’t listen to your body? It rebels. Within time, I developed a host of symptoms: hives, dark circles under my eyes (known as allergy ‘shiners’), nasal congestion, joint pain, muscle aches, and wheezing. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? As bad as those symptoms were, it could have been worse. Allergies can also cause fibromyalgia, asthma, headaches, and fatigue, and of course, anaphylactic shock.(www.recipe4wellness.com)

Over a month ago, I went back to the doctor, and I am happy to report, I am the proud owner of a beautiful list of 31 foods I can no longer eat.

It’s hard to say exactly why my list grew. Some professionals say that allergies increase due to malabsorption problems, some claim IBS or leaky gut. But in my research, what I discovered is this, new allergens are sometimes born when we ignore the ones we have.

I didn’t listen to my body. I refused to adapt.

Adapting isn’t always easy, and not always fun. But when it comes to health, it is a true necessity. Our lives depend on our ability, and our willingness, to adapt.

If you think you have allergies, I strongly encourage you to see a doctor. Your body will thank you for it.

Here are a few facts about food allergies:

1. Allergies can get worse, or change, over time. What may appear as a ‘shiner’ one time can turn up as nasal congestion the next time, or worse. Never count on a food allergy reacting the same way twice. http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk

2. 80% of the immune system surrounds the digestive system. Your body sees food coming in, and says, “Is that safe?” When you are allergic to a food, your body becomes more sensitive, and sometimes more allergic. www.olsonnd.com

3. Getting rid of food allergies could have helped me better fight my environmental allergies. I suffered this winter and early spring with outdoor allergies. They may have been less severe if I’d been eliminating the foods on my ‘don’t eat’ list. www.olsonnd.com

4. Some people are ‘atopic,’ meaning they have a tendency to develop allergies. (I was already allergic to dairy and dust mites before the other allergies occurred.) www.nhs.uk

5. If you are allergic to one food, you may react to other foods with a similar structure. This is known as cross-reactivity. (I was allergic to cranberries, and now I am allergic to blueberries, part of the cranberry family.)

6. There is no scientific evidence, but there are claims that if we don’t rotate our foods often enough, we can become allergic to them. Being a daily chocoholic, and a constant consumer of bell peppers, I can testify there may be some truth to that (as I can no longer eat either).

What it comes down to is this, I should have adapted the first time around. Now I am paying the price. We can adapt to anything, if we want it bad enough. I want my health. This time, I’m determined to follow my allergy list. I really don’t want a longer one.

I guess the good news is this, I learned a few things, and in turn, I hope I can help you.

This is what I’ve learned:

*Health is important. Yeah, I already knew that. But when it’s taken away, you realize how good you had it.

*I’m lucky (most of) my allergies aren’t super-severe. And if I stay away from my allergens, I can’t give them the chance to morph into a life-threatening monster.

*Allergies do affect the body. In one weeks’ time, after eliminating my allergens, my aching, tight muscles are limber, my wheezing has improved, and I have more energy.

A tough way to learn lessons. A tough way to learn to adapt.

**I am not a medical professional. If you have any medical concerns, or think you have allergies, please see a doctor.

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