Jul 23 2014

What is the Best Way to Clean Produce?

Vegetable washes, vinegar, distilled water, tap water, soap—what is the best way to wash fruits and vegetables?

What is it you are trying to remove? First, there are food-borne bacteria that could make you sick such as E-coli and Salmonella. These outbreaks sometimes make the news and are managed in the U.S. by The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and in Canada by The Public Health Agency of Canada.

Many times, contamination happens in the home when raw meat comes in contact with raw fruits or veggies from an unclean counter top or cutting board. But other times, contamination happens on the farm. Raw fruits and vegetables can become contaminated while in the field with E. coli for example, by improperly composted manure, contaminated water, wildlife or poor hygiene of farm workers.

Second, there are chemicals applied by the farmer, collectively known as ‘pesticides’. There are different classes and it’s easy to interpret what they are for:

  • Fungicides: kill fungus and mold
  • Herbicides: kill weeds
  • Insecticides: kill insects
  • Rodenticide: kills rodents
  • Pesticide: kill pests (but this term is also used by many to mean all of the above)

Wax is the third item on the surface of your produce. I discovered a lot about wax on produce, so much so, that I am creating an entire blog post on it just for you! Stay tuned! In short, wax is not as bad as I used to think it was.

Mold is the fourth item you will want to remove from produce. Mold is in the fungus family and mold spores are transported by air, water or insects. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Many crops at “pick-your-own” farms are routinely sprayed with fungicide after rainfall.

The CDC and the Public Health Agency in Canada, both recommend washing produce. I looked around the internet for evidence of various techniques and the following list is the result (references are listed below). I assembled this from various piece-meal sources as I wasn’t able to find one study that compared all the methods and looked at bacteria, chemical residues, wax and mold.

You and Your Kitchen:

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing food.
  • Clean your counter top, cutting boards and utensils after peeling produce and before cutting and chopping.

Detergent or Bleach:

  • Do not wash produce with soaps or detergents as these can add residues.
  • Detergent and bleach can also be absorbed into the fruit or vegetable.

Friction:

  • For produce with thick skin, such as potatoes, use a vegetable brush to help wash away hard-to-remove microbes.
  • After washing, dry with clean paper towel, this can remove more bacteria.
  • Rubbing a waxed fruit like an apple with your hands or a cloth will remove wax.

Soaking Versus Running Water:

  • Produce with a lot of nooks and crannies like cauliflower, broccoli or lettuce should be soaked for 1 to 2 minutes. This recommendation is contradicted by some sources who recommended only running water rinses because of the risk of cross contamination from the sink, so I suggest make sure your sink is clean first, then rinse after the soak.
  • Some produce such as raspberries should not be soaked in water, instead put fragile produce in a colander and spray it with distilled or tap water.

Re-Wash the Pre-Washed:

  • Do NOT rewash packaged products labeled “ready-to-eat”, “washed” or “triple washed”. Washing these can actually introduce new contaminants.

Vegetable Rinses:

  • Vegetable rinses do not remove any more contaminants than distilled water.
  • Save your money and use distilled water or cold running tap water.

Vinegar Spray and Soak:

  • A solution of 3 parts water:1 part vinegar applied from a spray bottle can remove more bacteria than water alone.
  • Vinegar will also remove wax.
  • It was not possible to find a scientific reference on this, but many websites recommend vinegar and water and lots of bloggers gave testimonials for this one: to prevent mold growth on berries soak your berries in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Then rinse and eat or refrigerate. (This contradicts other recommendations that state delicate fruit like berries should not be soaked and to wash just before eating.) The anecdotal evidence was strong for this one and vinegar is safe, so I am including it on my list. Plus, I tried it myself and I’m still standing ;)

Thick Skins Need Washing Too:

  • You may not be used to washing your bananas, oranges, melons and avocados, but these need to be washed too.
  • Cutting through an unwashed melon can drag bacteria from the outside of the fruit into the flesh.Remove bruises as these can contain bacteria.

Outer Leaves:

  • Discard outer leaves of veggies like lettuce, cabbage etc.

Organic Versus Conventional:

  • Organically-grown fruits and vegetables have less synthetic chemical residue, but can still be exposed to microbes. They are probably touched by just as many people before you eat them as conventional so organic still needs to be washed.

Shirt Rub:

  • If you find yourself hankering for a piece of fruit but there is no running water in sight, it’s still beneficial to do the ol’ sleeve rub prior to eating….provided of course that your shirt is clean.

Bruise and Mold on PeachDiscard or Cut Away:

  • Remove any bruised areas on produce as bacteria hang out here.
  • Don’t try to salvage soft fruits and vegetables with high moisture that have mold (for example, cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes).
  • Hard vegetables (for example, cabbage, bell peppers, carrots) can still be used after you cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot. Be sure to keep the knife out of the mold so you don’t cross-contaminate.

Timing:

  • If visiting a pick-your-own farm, call ahead and find out when/if they sprayed. Pesticides break down after they are sprayed, so the longer you wait to harvest after the spray the lower the residue level will be.
  • In the case of strawberries and other produce that get regular fungicide application after rainfall, pay attention to the weather report and call before you pick.

Grocery Bags:

  • Don’t forget to wash your reusable cloth shopping bags.

Enjoy beautiful fresh produce and know that all my sources agreed water, a scrub brush and vinegar are your main defenses against dirt, bacteria, pesticide residue, wax and mold. The only sources that disagreed were the ones selling vegetable rinses.

 

References:

CDC Outbreaks

Nancy Dell: Washing produce with vinegar; Evaporated cane juice

Public Health Agency of Canada

University of Maine, Department of Food Science

Video Clip on How to Wash Fruits and Veggies

Driving Surface Contaminants into Flesh

Vinegar Rinse

Bruises

Detergent or Bleach

Mold

Jul 12 2014

Cancer is A Word, Not a Sentence Book Review

Cancer is a word, not a sentenceSeveral years ago, I heard Dr. Robert Buckman speak on the subject of humour in palliative care. The talk was funny, sensitive and compassionate. It made my partner and I a fan of his, in as much as a doctor can have a fan group.

When I saw his book Cancer is a Word, Not a Sentence, I was quick to buy it, remembering his talk that I found very uplifting.

It was easy to read and incredibly informative. The first three chapters reminded me of chapter one of my own book, The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, in that he provides an introduction to all things cancer, giving the newly diagnosed the heads up on common questions and concerns. He does this in much more detail than I have done in my book.  For that reason it’s a great companion for newly diagnosed patients and their families.

Here are some key points in the book that I found particularly noteworthy:

  • Cancer includes 200 different diseases. He suggests we should call them the cancers to emphasize their individual aspects. While they share the fundamental cancer process- uncontrolled cell division, the 200 different types actually have very little in common with each other.
  • Think of the word cancer, like you would infection. Infection is not a disease in itself and ranges from the innocuous common cold to life threatening infections like Ebola virus. Cancer too ranges from the basal cell skin cancer to advanced pancreatic cancer. Cancer should be thought of as a process and not a disease in and of itself.
  • In addition to being a successful doctor, speaker and author, Dr. Buckman also hosted a TV series called Magic or Medicine? He writes in this book about some of the cases of magical cancer cures that he and his team investigated as part of the TV series. The show essentially de-bunked patients claims of magical cures and he provides his reason on how these cases can be mislabeled including wrong diagnoses and misinterpretation.
  • Regarding the use of complementary therapies he states he does “not mind his patients trying any complimentary remedy that they wish, as long as they have realistic expectations of it and will not be crushed and disappointed if it doesn’t do them any physical good”. This is an interesting one to get your head around, as I’m not sure why you would take a complimentary medicine if you didn’t think it would work for you.
  • His interpretation of the common term cancer survivor made me reflect on my own use of this label. His belief is that someone who survives a plane crash is a survivor. A cancer diagnoses is not a plane crash; although some cancers carry a high mortality rate, many do not. Therefore to call everyone who has survived any cancer a survivor maintains the ill-informed idea that most people with a cancer diagnosis are expected to die. He thinks living well post cancer is a better term and encompasses more than just being alive but thriving post cancer.
  • His opinions and mine though take a divergence when he talks about the power of prayer. In short, he provides research that refutes that prayers said on your behalf have any benefit in your cancer outcome.
  • Another area of divergence is that he does not believe in the connections between “attitude” and the development or successful treatment of cancer. He admits that while patients who participate in support groups such as Dr. Bernie Siegels’ E-CaP (see my review of Dr. Siegel’s book Love, Medicine and Miracles here), have some benefit to their quality of life, they do not in fact live any longer or affect their cancer diagnosis than patients who don’t participate in such groups.

When it comes to explaining the cancer process, treatments, tests, getting back on track and helping yourself Dr. Buckman does an excellent job of laying out the facts in a very organized, readable and informative way. I recommend it for that reason.

His opinions will also resonate with you if you are a skeptic and see only the physical side of cancer without any emotional connection to your disease or the benefits of prayer. I can say though, in my case, I still appreciated reading his side of these issues even though his opinions are different from mine.

Bottom line:

A recommended read.

Jul 07 2014

Blueberries for Cancer Prevention

Blueberries are not only beautiful and delicious; they are partners in our fight against cancer. Much of the health benefit of blueberries is credited to a group of pigments called Anthocyanidins.

These are responsible for blue, red, pink, mauve and orange colours in fruits and vegetables.  While we don’t know for sure how these work in our bodies, laboratory work has shown that Anthocyanidins added to cancer cells grown in a petri dish will stop cell growth and lead the cell into apoptosis—termination of the cell by itself—like cell suicide.  Work on blueberries also show its components can stop angiogenesis – the creation of new blood supply by the cancer.

Blueberries, Anthocyanidins and the Cancer Cell

In addition to the Anthocyanidin pigments, there are other beneficial nutrients in blueberries—vitamin C and K, the mineral manganese and fiber.

Wild blueberries tend to be higher in plant nutrients (phytonutrients). However, they are not actually ‘wild’—they are cultivated and farmed—but from the lowland bush as opposed to the highland bush.

The best way to enjoy fresh blueberries I think is just like they are, but if you want to jazz them up a little without going too crazy with added sugar and fat try the following recipe from Foodland Ontario:

Pear, Apple and Blueberry Granola Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 2 Ontario Pears, cored and sliced
  • 2 Ontario McIntosh Apples, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) Ontario Blueberries
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) granola with raisins
  • 4 parfait glasses

Preparation:

Gently toss together 2 Ontario Pears, cored and sliced, 2 Ontario McIntosh Apples, cored and sliced, and 1/2 cup (125 mL) Ontario Blueberries. Spoon half of fruit mixture into each of the 4 parfait glasses. Top each with 1/4 cup (50 mL) vanilla yogurt and 1 tbsp (15 mL) granola with raisins. Repeat layers.

Freezing Blueberries

Wash blueberries and pat dry and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid and then transfer to freezer bags. When you want to use your frozen blueberries, don’t defrost them; add them frozen to recipes to ensure their blue hue doesn’t bleed.

When blueberry season is over and you need a little flashback to summer then use your frozen blueberries for this recipe:

Blueberry Green Tea Smoothie (from page 298, Refreshing Beverages, of my book, The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook):

Blueberries and green tea are two foods that should rank high on your cancer-fighting menu.

Ingredients:

  • Blender
  • 2 tsp green tea leaves (or 1 bag) (10 mL)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water (125 mL)
  • 1 tbsp liquid honey or agave nectar (15 mL)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (125 mL)
  • 1/2 cup probiotic plain yogurt (125 mL)

Preparation:

  1. In a measuring cup or tea pot, combine green tea and boiling water; let steep for 8 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve (or discard tea bags), without squeezing leaves, into a bowl or container. Stir in honey until dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until chilled, or for up to 1 day.
  2. In blender, combine chilled tea, blueberries and yogurt and blend until smooth.

Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

Tip: If you are nauseated or put off by food, try drinking from a cup with a lid and a straw.

 

Resources:

Find a U-Pick Farm near you (U.S.A.): http://www.nabcblues.org/upick.htm

References:

Freezing Blueberries: http://www.ontario.ca/foodland/recipes/freezing-ontario-peaches-and-blueberries

Blueberry Granola Parfait Recipe: http://www.ontario.ca/foodland/recipes/pear-apple-and-blueberry-granola-parfait

Jun 30 2014

Should I Become Vegetarian to Prevent Cancer?

Fresh meat and dairy productsThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition just published a study on the incidence of cancer in Vegetarians compared to fish eaters and meat eaters.

The study combined the data of two prospective studies. Prospective means “looking forward” so in this type of observational study, subjects without cancer are enrolled and asked to complete dietary and lifestyle questionnaires. Then, researchers track who gets cancer and what type.

The information on cancer incidence and type is then compared to the subject’s dietary pattern; vegetarian, fish or meat eater to see if there are associations. While this type of study does not prove a cause of cancer, it is still beneficial as it gives us ideas about risk factors.

In this case, the two studies whose data were pooled were the EPIC-Oxford cohort, which recruited subjects between 1993-1999 and the Oxford Vegetarian Study, which first recruited in 1980-1984. The data included in this study was collected until December 31, 2010.

Here are some statements the researchers were able to make about cancer risk and dietary pattern:

Comparing Fish and Meat Eaters

  • Fish eaters have a 35% lower risk of colorectal cancer than meat eaters
  • Fish eaters have a lower risk of ovarian cancer than meat eaters
  • Fish eaters have a lower risk of kidney cancer than meat eaters

Comparing Vegetarians and Meat Eaters

  • The risk of cancers of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues was 36% lower in vegetarians than meat eaters
  • Vegetarians had a 77% lower risk of multiple myeloma than meat eaters
  • Stomach cancer risk was 63% lower in vegetarians (but this was based on a small number of cases)

Total Cancer Incidence of these Dietary Patterns Compared to Meat Eaters:

  • 12% lower cancer incidence in fish eaters
  • 11% lower cancer incidence in vegetarians
  • 19% lower cancer incidence in vegans

Some Surprises:

  • There was no difference in colorectal cancer risk between meat eaters and vegetarians or vegans
  • There was no difference in colorectal cancer risk between high and low intakes of meat

Bottom Line:

While this study is surprising in that it didn’t find a risk for meat eating and colorectal cancer (the American Institute of Cancer Research in their 2007 report stated that the evidence that high intakes of red and processed meat cause colorectal cancer is convincing), there are still benefits in overall cancer risk reduction from fish, vegetarian and vegan diet patterns compared to meat eaters.

Since we don’t know what cancer cells are currently in our bodies, it seems prudent to focus on protein sources from fish and plant based sources. The bottom line for me is that I’m going to continue to eat the way I do and I won’t be adding any steaks to my bbq menu this summer. In fact, I’m going to incorporate more vegan meals into my weekly menu.

Organics

 

Reference:

Cancer in British vegetarians: updated analyses of 4998 incident cancers in a cohort of 32,491 meat eaters, 8612 fish eaters, 18,298 vegetarians, and 2246 vegans.  Timothy J Key, Paul N Appleby, Francesca L Crowe, Kathryn E Bradbury, Julie A Schmidt, and Ruth C Travis. Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.071266.

Jun 26 2014

Tasty Ideas to Reduce Cancer Risk

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are potent cancer-causing agents. They form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. HCAs also form with frying, broiling and smoking, but not baking. High intake of grilled meat is linked with cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and pancreas.

HCAs build up on all flesh foods—meat, poultry and fish (not fruit or vegetables)—four minutes after the temperature reaches 325°F.  The longer the cooking time and the higher the temperature, the more HCAs are formed.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed after the fat on the meat melts from the high temperature, drips onto the coals and then reattaches itself to the meat through the smoke.There are ways to reduce your exposure to these carcinogens:

  • Reduce the frequency and serving size of grilled meat
  • Choose leaner cuts, this results in less dripping fat causing flare-ups
  • Flip the meat frequently
  • Reduce the heat—cooking at slightly lower temperatures is enough to substantially reduce formation of HCAs
  • Cut off the charred portions and don’t eat them
  • Use a marinade—studies have shown that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease formation of HCAs by up to 96 percent

Using a marinade like the tip above suggests can have some exciting culinary results. The marinade should include beneficial plant ingredients. Spice rubs are popular now and these are great—you can rub these onto solid meat or add these to your recipes when you work with ground meat such as making burgers. Here are some examples:

  • Herbs and spices especially rosemary leaves or extract
  • Beer*
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Green or black tea
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice

If you’re not sure where to start, begin with rosemary. Rosemary has a good track record in research studies. According to Bon Appetite Magazine, here is the basic formula for making a marinade:

Oil+Acid+Something Salty+Spices

Here are some combinations that work well together:

  • Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, oregano and thyme
  • Orange juice, lime juice, cilantro, salt and ginger
  • White wine, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper

Want some marinade recipes? Check out this blog by bonappetite website.

I am wishing you delicious, healthy grilling this summer! Check back for some healthy grilled veggie recipes that I will be sharing soon!

*In a study on the effectiveness of 3 different types of beer on the reduction of PAHs on grilled pork, black beer was the most effective followed by non-alcoholic pilsner and pilsner (see reference list below for more details)

 

References:

Healing Spices. Bharat B. Aggarwal with Debora Yost. Sterling, 2011. Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health.  Liz Pearson and Marilyn Smith. Whitecap, 2007. American Institute for Cancer Research http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?id=15485 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork. 2014, 62 (12), pp 2638–2643 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf404966w J Food Sci. 2011 Oct;76(8):T174-80. Inhibitory activity of Asian spices on heterocyclic amines formation in cooked beef patties. Puangsombat K1, Jirapakkul W, Smith JS. J Food Sci. 2010 Mar;75(2):T40-7. Inhibition of heterocyclic amine formation in beef patties by ethanolic extracts of rosemary. Puangsombat K1, Smith JS.

Jun 12 2014

Broccoli Salad

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh broccoli florets

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

 

Dressing:

1 TBSP fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain probiotic yogurt

 

Method:

1.  Prepare ingredients

2.  Steam the broccoli for 1 minute

3.  Remove broccoli from the steamer and add to cold water bath

4. Compare steamed broccoli and raw broccoli

5. Mix together the salad dressing ingredients. Mix other ingredients together and add dressing. Stir to combine.

6.  Cover and place in fridge for 2 hours to marinate. Enjoy!

 

Watch the Spice Shakedown video to find out more about why Jean steamed the broccoli, as well as information about the Top 3 cancer fighting spices.

For new readers: Join my community and watch the Spice Shakedown

Already part of my community? Watch the Spice Shakedown here.

Don’t keep this nutrition information to yourself! Please share it and refer a friend to my community!

Jun 06 2014

7 Healthy, Delicious and Easy-to-Grow Herbs

A Variety of Herbs at My Local StoreI have assembled this chart to give you a quick look at some of the herbs that you will find in your local garden centre or produce store. These are easy to grow and you may find that mint and sage will grow as a perennial for you. Some people complain that mint can take over the garden, so if you don’t want that, then plant it in a pot or contained space.

When you go to the garden centre you will see several forms of most of these herbs. For example basil comes in small leaf basil, Thai basil, and Genovese basil. Mint can be spearmint, peppermint, ginger mint, etc. Just plant the one that you enjoy the most. They all contain the same active ingredient, so you will get the health benefits no matter which flavour version you choose.

Herb Information Table

Happy planting!Potted Herbs on My Patio

May 28 2014

Rooibos, The Red Tea

A cup of red espresso (Rooibos Tea)The rooibos plant grows in South Africa. Botanically, it is a member of the legume family and has long skinny needles, like needles or broomsticks.

In South Africa, when you make tea from these leaves it is called Bush Tea. Like black tea, red rooibos tea has been oxidized from its original green colour. But unlike green and black tea, rooibos is not from the camellia sinensis species and does not contain caffeine.

Like other plants rooibos leaves have been found to contain important phytonutrients.

menu items under redespressoI visited the Olympia restaurant in Lindsay, Ontario recently and saw Red Espresso on the menu for the first time. I tried it, while it wasn’t my favourite, I still do enjoy the flavour of rooibos tea.

Try this homemade Chai Spiced Tea recipe that I have adapted from it’s original version. It’s more work then I would do when making a cup of tea for myself, but will definitely impress your guests.

 

Homemade Chai Spiced Tea (Serves two)

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 Rooibos tea bags
  • 1 TBSP honey or less
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinches ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk or soy (if using sweetened soy then reduce or eliminate honey)

 

Directions

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add tea, honey and vanilla. Season with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour in milk, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and strain through a fine sieve.

 



Homemade Spiced Chai Tea

References:
Recipe Adapted From: ‘Coffeebar Chai’ http://allrecipes.com

May 21 2014

Celebrate Family Wellness Month with a Family Meal

They're Happy Because They Eat LardI’m not sure of the true origins of this poster, but from what I could find, it’s either from the Lard Council or Viz, a British Comedy Magazine. Whether it’s real or a spoof, it’s a depiction of that stereotypical 1950’s family; breadwinning father, stay-at-home mother, home in the suburbs. The 1950’s family demographic set the standard for the ‘ideal’ family, although in 2014 families are so much more diverse than this.

In the 1950’s kitchen, mother probably still made all the meals at home and maybe there was a family garden in the backyard and of course, they would sit down together and eat their dinner. While some people might think the family meal is dying away, according to researchers at North Dakota State University, that does not seem to be true. In studies there by Associate Professor Sean Brotherson, 79% of teens say they very much enjoy the family meal and 98% of parents say that eating at least 1 meal a day together is very important.

Health benefits include: an opportunity for parents to model healthy eating, improved nutrition (regular family meals are associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake, more grains and other healthy choices), and a reduced risk of childhood obesity.

From a social science perspective, the conversations and time spent together that accompany the family meal strengthens the family connection. If you live alone, remember that ‘family’ can include friends and neighbours too!

I’d like to suggest that the caption for that poster “they’re happy because they eat lard” is what researchers would call a “confounder”. That is, it’s not the lard that is making that family happy; it’s the fact that they are eating their meals together.

May is Family Wellness Month and to honour this event, I want to reinforce that your efforts to enjoy a family meal will be rewarded. When you sit down to your family meal, know that you are doing something great for your family’s health.

 

Happy Family Wellness Month!

 

 

 

 

 

References:
J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Dec;113(12):1601-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.08.011. Epub 2013 Oct 15.
Eating breakfast and dinner together as a family: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and implications for diet quality and weight status.
Larson N, MacLehose R, Fulkerson JA, Berge JM, Story M, Neumark-Sztainer D
 
J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Mar;103(3):317-22.
Family meal patterns: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents.
Neumark-Sztainer D1, Hannan PJ, Story M, Croll J, Perry C.
 
http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/eatsmart/eat-smart.-play-hard.-magazines-1/2009-eat-smart-play-hard-magazine/test-item

May 12 2014

Jean’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

I love nutella, but don’t like that it has more sugar than hazelnuts! To get all the details on how nutella compares with other commercial chocolate hazelnut spreads read my blog post called “Sugar with Added Hazelnuts”.

I’ve looked online for recipes for homemade versions. All of them have you roasting and skinning hazelnuts…oy vey! Who has the time? My version is quick. Although you will have to clean the food processor afterwards.

Jean’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients

  • 1 Jar Hazelnut butter or your favourite combination of nut butters
  • 1-3 tbsp dark non-alkalized cocoa
  • 1-3 tbsp icing sugar

Method

Add the hazelnut butter and 1 tbsp of cocoa to the mixer. Blend. Taste. Add more cocoa and/or sugar to taste. Try to use more cocoa than sugar. If you have a taste for dark chocolate, then you might not need any sugar at all. It’s a fun recipe to make with kids.

IMG_2335 (1)_cropped

The end result will be less sweet than any commercial chocolate hazelnut butter, but because it doesn’t have tropical oil (better for the cholesterol levels) it will also be a little thinner. You can keep it in the fridge to help solidify some of the nut oils.

The hazelnut butter I use has only hazelnuts. If yours has sugar added, then you can omit the sugar from the recipe; it’s probably more than sweet enough already.  To dilute the sugar more, try combining it with another nut butter that is unsweetened like almond or peanut.

Nutrition Tips:

Why dark, non-alkalized cocoa? Cocoa contains important plant compounds called flavanols. They show potential in protecting health in both the cancer and heart disease research.

Bakers don’t like it when the cocoa clumps together, so much of the cocoa sold is Dutched or alkalized. While this makes it easier to work with, it reduces the flavanol content. Read the labels on your cocoa, you don’t want one that says “Dutched”, “Dutch processed” or “alkalized”. Alternatively, it might say ‘natural’ or it might not say anything.  Also, look at the colour if you can, a darker cocoa is better.

Why no milk powder? If you look on the label for the commercial chocolate hazelnut spreads, they contain milk powder. This does add more protein and calcium to the nutrition profile and also helps to thicken it. I don’t use it here, because milk interferes with the absorption of the flavonols from the cocoa. So, for the same reason I don’t recommend milk chocolate, I’m not adding milk power.

Why Hazelnuts? Well first off, they taste great with chocolate. Also, like other nuts they are a source of unsaturated oils (the kind that are beneficial for heart health). Of all the tree nuts, they are the highest in folate (a B vitamin most famous for reducing neural tube defects when eating by women in early pregnancy), and highest in a plant compound called proanthocyanidin which are know to help reduce the risk of blood clots and reduce urinary tract infections.

Why No Tropical Oils? The commercial chocolate hazelnuts spreads add modified palm oils. Since they are saturated fats – they help to make the spread thicker, but they also are suspected of thickening the walls of blood vessels. So, no palm oil in my recipe. If you are really not happy with the texture of the final product, then try adding 1 tbsp coconut oil. This will help it to be more solid.

I want to know how much Added Sugar I’m getting

I mentioned in my blog post “Sugar with Added Hazelnuts” that the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a limit of 25 g per day of added sugars. Once you have your final recipe, you can figure out how many grams of sugar you have in your product this way:

Facts

  • Every tsp of icing sugar is 2.45g of sugar
  • There are 3 teaspoons (tsp) in every tablespoon (Tbsp)
  • Every tbsp. of icing sugar would have 7.35 g of sugar (2.45 x 3)

To know how much added sugar you are getting from your finished version of Jean’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, then you would need to know the finished quantity.

For example: you get 250 ml of spread and it’s made with 2 tbsp icing sugar.

  1. First calculate the number of servings: 250 ml / 15 = 16.6 servings (every tbsp. is 15 ml)
  2. Then multiply the total grams of sugar (2 tbsp x 7.35) = 14.7 g
  3. Next divide the total grams of sugar by the number of servings 14.7 / 16.6 = 0.89 g per serving

You have less than 1 g of added sugar per 1 tbsp serving (Nutella has 11 g). Well done!

What Ratio Worked for You?

Share your version below in the comments section.

 

 

References:

http://www.oregonhazelnuts.org/health-benefits/

http://webprod3.hc-sc.gc.ca/cnf-fce/start-debuter.do?lang=eng

Older posts «