Need a little spice in your life? Everyone does! Homemade garam masala doesn’t just bring a bit of spice to your veggies dishes, it brings a whole new depth of layered flavour. Try this roasted spice mixture once and you’ll be a fan for life!
In Punjabi, garam means hot, and masala means blended spices. So,garam masala literally means warm/hot spice mix.
But that doesn’t mean that garam masala is hot in terms of spice. It refers to the way it is said to raise metabolism. It’s also why you should use it sparingly and at the end of cooking or preparing veggie dishes such as salads, soups, bread, dahls and vegetable curries.
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black cardamom
1 tbsp green cardamom
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp black peppercorn
1 tsp cloves
1 x 2.5cm cinnamon sticks
1 tsp mace
4 dried bay leaves (Indian if possible)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried ginger
Roast the spices (except the black cardamom (to release the fragrant essential oils in a heavy based pan, stirring to ensure they are all roasted event.
Allow to cool and then grind in a clean coffee grinder.
Use a teaspoon or two at the end of cooking your dishes to enjoy the fragrant flavour. Store in an airtight container but try to use quickly – the essential oils lose their potency fast.
Although this dessert dish doesn’t use a great deal of sugar, you can reduce it further – just choose sweet ripe bananas for a natural sweetness. It’s also full of potassium – which helps to balance sodium in your body (too much can raise blood pressure).
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp vegetarian margarine or coconut oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 small bananas, peeled and sliced as thinly as you can
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Splash of rum (optional) or use Cointreau
Heat a large pan and gently toast the coconut until lightly golden.
Heat the bananas in the coconut oil and using a wooden spoon, stir in the brown sugar – allow to melt.
Add the bananas and coat with the coconut oil and sugar mix. Pour in the alcohol if using and cook for five minutes until softened (the heat will burn off the alcohol or you can flambé it if it’s safe.
Finish with the cinnamon and coconut and serve with coconut ice or nice cream.
Hot flushes, weight gain and brittle bones – there’s a lot going on for a woman in her middle years. But all of these can be tackled. And so can a slightly less well-known side effect of peri- and post- menopause which is a sweet tooth.
So could women’s middle-age spread be explained by a shift in taste sensations encouraging powerful cravings for sweet food?
So could women’s middle-age spread be explained by a shift in taste sensations encouraging powerful cravings for sweet food?
The desire for sweeter more intense eats can be triggered by changes in oestrogen levels.
Oestrogen is one of the hormones that affects the amount of water in your body – including your mouth. For your taste buds to work, food has to be dissolved in water. And where there is less water around, one of the results can be taste changes.
Turkish researchers from Ankara University found that a third of women, around 35 per cent said their palate became less sensitive during menopause and they craved stronger sweeter tastes to get the flavour hit that they were missing.
On top of this, a fall in progesterone levels may make women more prone to insulin resistance in the middle years. This is where insulin is produced but doesn’t work as well as it should. One of the results of high insulin levels in the blood is a craving for sugar.
At the same time, as levels of the oestrogen and the other female sex hormone,
What you can do
Eat regular meals throughout the day. By not letting yourself get hungry, you can prevent your natural urge to eat – and eat sugary fatty treats. Protein in meals is important because it acts as a chemical appetite suppressant. Fibre is important because if physically fills you up and behaves like a physical appetite suppressant.
Love your legumes – they contain protein and fibre and are relatively low in calories, too. If you are one of those people that like the physical act of chewing, beans and green veggies are your friend.
Drink plenty of water
Sip it throughout the day to help keep you as hydrated as possible.
Go natural – try to cook more from scratch if you want to stop feeding a sugar habit. Even savoury processed foods contain sugar so be a food label reader and opt for sugar-free versions when you can. Plus, event slight dehydration is linked with food cravings. Add slices of apple. Lemon and mint if plain water doesn’t do it for you. Or sip green or black tea.
Get a sweet hit from sweets made with xylitol and Stevia which are naturally sweet but low GI.
Make more of magnesium
This mineral can be in short supply when you are stressed and may also show itself as a craving for sugar. Find magnesium in pulses such as chickpeas, red kidney beans and black eyed beans plus brown rice and leafy green veggies.
Make sure you’re getting enough chromium which is needed to regulate blood glucose levels. Find in in whole grains, vegetables and green veggies.
Up your omegas
Scientist from the University of California found that docosahexanoic acid (DHA) in omega-3 rich foods such as avocado, walnuts, flaxseed and dark leafy greens could actually counteract the inflammatory effects of sugar in the body.
Ensure you’re getting enough zinc
Your body needs to use both glucose and insulin. Find it in whole grains, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts.
Watch your intake of alcohol.
Your liver detoxified alcohol turning it to sugar in the process. Plus, it uses up some of your nutritional reserves, too.
Get enough sleep
Lack of good quality sleep raises the levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin in your systems. This means you’ll crave more fatty/sugary foods. Plus, when you are tired, you may want to self-medicate by increasing sugar to increase energy. but as you know, this is short-lived and once the sugar fix wears off, the resulting low blood glucose sends you reaching for the next sugar fix and so on.
Get enough exercise
Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol trigger the fight or flight syndrome and sugar cravings. But physical exercise can help to fight them. Aerobic exercise simulates the flight syndrome and burns stress hormones while boxing and kickboxing mimic the fight response. And exercise that involves slow, methodical movements and breathing such as tai chi, yoga and Pilates help boost your mindfulness helping you to calm down and make better health choices.
Be more mindful
Mindfulness is important. It’s easy to overeat or focus on less than healthy treats if you’re not watching what you eat. And if being overweight can make cravings worse since it can contribute to insulin resistance. So be in the moment, enjoy what you eat and made moderation your new better health rule.
In 2010, scientists examining ancient pottery from the site of an ancient civilisation near Delhi found traces of eggplant with ginger and turmeric in clay pots. They dubbed it the world’s first curry. So, Ayurvedic medical practitioners have used the vibrant yellow spice, currently starring in teas, smoothies and dinner dishes in café and homes near you, for four thousand years or more. So what did the ancient food doctors in India know about turmeric that we’re only just learning? And can this flavour and colour boost also come with health benefits?
Botanist Dr James A. Duke, writing in Alternative & Complementary Therapies, has reviewed around 700 studies examining the benefits of turmeric (curcuma longa). He found that in some studies, turmeric has been show to be even more effective than a number of pharmaceutical where it comes to anti-inflammatory action – and with virtually no adverse effects.
Here’s where ancient wisdom and modern knowledge combine and just a few fast facts about this surprisingly beneficial spice …
Turmeric contains over 20 active medicinal compounds called curcumunoids; the most important of these is curcumin and this may have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties according to Harvard University[i].
The plant compound in pepper (which gives pepper its bite) is called piperine and this boosts your body’s ability to absorb turmeric by 2000 times[ii].
Because curcumin is fat-soluble, it needs fat to dissolve in before it can be absorbed. Could be one reason why many curries begin with the frying of onions and garlic in oil? Try using olive oil – it contains a unique range of beneficial phenolic compounds that aren’t found in any other food.
Turmeric may have a role to play in the prevention of dementia. It does this by reducing the formation of a substance called beta-amyloid (responsible for the formation of plaques that obstruct brain) in Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin fights oxidative damage and inflammation which both contribute to dementia. This may be especially important since curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier – i.e. it can pass from the blood into the brain helping to keep blood vessels clear and in this way, allow for oxygen and nutrients in blood to nourish the brain.
Turmeric contains six different COX-2-inhibitors. COX-2 enzymes promote pain, swelling and inflammation but COX-2-inhibitors selectively block this enzyme. Because of this, it may be able to play a role in keeping blood vessels clear. In one study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug[iii].
Powdered turmeric root contains around three per cent curcumin[iv]. Many of the newer studies examine the effect of 1gram of curcumin extract so you may want to consider a supplement as well as upping your intake from dishes that contain turmeric.
Turmeric may have a role in fighting depression, again due to its potent anti-inflammatory action. In one small study of 60 people, one group took a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), called Prozac (fluoxetine), another took a 1g dose of curcumin daily while a third group took both the SSRI and 1g curcumin. After six weeks, the results showed that the group that took both curcumin and fluoxetine displayed the best results where it came to mood and depression[v]. The severity of depression was assessed using a common test for depression called the Hamilton Rating Scale (HAM-D). This evaluates mood, guilt, suicidal ideation, sleep problems, agitation anxiety, and more. Results showed that overall, the average change in the HAM-D scores was similar for curcumin and fluoxetine i.e. curcumin worked as well as fluoxetine in terms of improvements in the severity of depression. One of the ways in which curcumin may exert its effect is by boosting the feel-good brain transmitters serotonin and dopamine[vi].
Raw turmeric may have greater anti-inflammatory effects than cooked turmeric.
Cooked turmeric may have greater antioxidant effects than raw.
Ready to give it a go? The University of Maryland recommends a dose of 1.5 to 3 g cut root per day, 1-3 g dried turmeric or 400 to 600 mg standardised powder (curcumin) three times per day[vii].
Buy fresh turmeric from groceries and dried ginger from grocers and supermarkets.
[iii] A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639. Epub 2012 Mar 9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22407780
Did you know that stress hormones affect women differently? Did you know that women hang on to them for longer than men? And, did you know that one of the primary sex hormones in women, oxytocin, is what drives women to tend and befriend? But that this might be why women have a tendency to take on more than they should potentially resulting in overloading, overcommitting, and overstressing?
To get to the heart of what’s causing the stress and distress in your life, it might help to understand stress hormones.
There are a number of these which your body releases in times of danger. They work to mobilise glucose which your cells need to fight or take flight – just as you would fight for whatever reason primeval woman would have done or take flight i.e run away from danger when your ancestors needed to move, and move fast. Stress hormones also raise your heartbeat and your blood pressure for the same reasons.
It doesn’t have to be a major stress that triggers your stress response. It can be a daily niggle – from traffic to tight shoes. And so can taking on too much. Once whatever is stressing you passes, your stress hormones normalise. But if stress is your daily companion your cortisol level goes up — and stays there.
the result can be a whole range of illnesses including:
Anxiety and depression
Memory and concentration problems
One of the results of too much stress for too long includes weight gain. That’s because high levels of glucose when not burned off are changed by your body into fat. One of the places that this conversion takes place is the liver and fat can be stored around the middle region. Hence belly fat.
Belly fat is different to the type of fat on other parts of your body. It lies deep inside your body covering and coating the internal organs or viscera (which is why belly fat is also sometimes called visceral fat).
Belly fat is also different because it contains four times as many receptors for cortisol as any other type of fat which keeps cortisol high and ever increasing.
So what can you do to zap your stress hormones and boost your physical and emotional wellbeing?
Enjoy a healthy mixed diet. Natural and colourful. These foods provide vital protective vitamins, minerals, plant pigments and fibre. Fibre hangs onto the sugars in foods releasing them slowly so that your body isn’t stressed by large amounts of glucose flooding the bloodstream followed by a sharp drop as your body tries desperately to normalise it. Plus, you body won’t need to turn excess glucose into fat. Remember, the body treats alcohol in the same way as sugar (which promotes the production of a type of fat called triglycerides). so reaching for a glass or two won’t actually help was stress.
Up your omega-3s. Even more research has shown that consuming a diet right in omega-3 fats from vegetable products (such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, green veggies and pulses) and long chained omega-3 fats (from algae or ethically sourced fish and fish oils). Try around 2g per day to lower your cortisol levels.
Work with your fight or flight syndrome. Fighting or taking flight (in the form of exercise such as boxing which means no one get harmed and running or walking which mirrors your flight syndrome) are excellent ways to reduce stress levels and burn cortisol and burn fat – including belly fat and ridding your body of all those extra cortisol levels, too.
Choose yoga or tai chi or both. And, add some Pilates if you can. Two of these ancient wisdoms combine mindfulness and deep breathing – the first two help you slow down your heartrate and blood pressure since deep breathing tells your body to slow down and fights the stress response. Bringing back the calm may help you find the time to make better choices and mindfulness has been shown to reduce belly fat in women according to researchers from the University of San Francisco.
Cut something out. Taking on too much is typical for many women so think about making a list of all the roles and responsibilities that you have. Do you tend to tend and befriend? You’re hardwired to. but see if you can cut the list and think about where you can ask for help, too. Multitasking is great. but overdoing it is bad for your health
Take time for yourself. It’s not selfish – it’s is vital. Take the time to do something you love and make time for exercise. It’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity so book it into your diary like you would an important meeting and make sure you keep it. Do it for you. And do it for those who love you.