Exotic new foods are hitting the market at an amazing pace. For good or for ill, the far corners of the world have opened up and we now have access to things that were virtually unknown a mere 10 years ago. Some of these new items appear to be quite good for us, while others are decidedly not. Women are in a powerful position to influence purchasing and consumption trends, as they often do much of the shopping and meal planning for multiple people; as the only members of society that can give birth, women also have a special interest in being informed about the foods they put into their body. Let’s take a look at 3 foods we believe every woman should know more about.
Though stereotypical, the idea that women love chocolate seems to have a foundation. Incidentally, the more I learn about real chocolate, the more I love it, too. Real chocolate is simply cacao (or cocoa) seeds with nothing added. In a raw state it is full of antioxidants, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin C, and heaps of fiber. There are compounds within it that can elevate mood, increase energy, and decrease appetite. It has also been found to have positive effects on blood pressure and vascular function. The downside only comes with the heavy processing meant to serve a nation of sweet-tooths. As cacao has a somewhat bitter taste by itself, the seeds are often powdered and mixed with various sugars and emulsifiers before being heated to the melting point. This processing damages the food, meaning that most commercial chocolates have far fewer beneficial qualities than the real thing and chemical contaminants you just don’t need. Truth is, that processed stuff isn’t really chocolate, it’s a chocolate product.
Thankfully, there a many ways to obtain and enjoy real chocolate. Simplest of all is to go out and purchase some seeds (beans) or “nibs” (crushed seeds). Depending on your tastes you could just eat those products alone as a healthy snack but many people prefer to add them to something that needs added crunch, like yogurt or oatmeal. Cutting through the bitter flavor is as easy as adding some raw honey or real maple syrup, or adding berries to the mix.
This is a food you want in your diet, and it is best to keep it in there as naturally as possible. Imagine feeling a pre-menstrual craving coming on and knowing that you have a supply of chemical-free chocolate to tend to it with, utterly guilt-free.
The awesome power of modern marketing is neatly displayed by the rise of agave syrup. This brawny step-brother of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become all the rage among well-meaning women in their search for healthier sweeteners, yet it can scarcely be called better than HFCS and is quite possibly worse! On the upside, it is low-glycemic, meaning that it has a more muted effect on blood sugar levels than many other sweeteners. Once again, the downside comes in with the processing. Sap from the agave plant is subjected to high temperatures and other methods of refinement that result in a shelf-stable syrup nearly devoid of nutrients, comprised of roughly 80% fructose. Fructose is the form of sugar that freaks out our liver and is more readily stored as fat than actual fat molecules. For contrast, HFCS is about 55% fructose.
It’s a fun word to say (uh-ga-vay), and it has some great press, but the facts are in: agave syrup as it exists in stores today is not something a health-conscious woman wants in her diet.
Kale and broccoli are good, we know this, but they have a cousin that is just incredible. Maca is a cruciferous plant that grows high in the Andes of South America. It is grown for its root, which resembles a radish. Historically it has been used to boost energy, improve fertility, and enhance libido. Today we are finding that it has applications for women experiencing menopausal symptoms, suffering from hormonal imbalances, menstrual discomfort, anemia, and more. As unbelievable as it all may sound, maca is truly an amazing food that has changed the lives of many women already.
Maca also happens to taste great. A bit like malt and butterscotch mixed together. Unless you go to Peru, the only maca you are likely to find will be in powdered form, which makes it very easy to mix into foods you’re already familiar with. Some like to augment their guacamole with it while others stir it into yogurt. For me it’s all about adding maca and cacao powder to my weak morning coffee in a 1:2 ratio. OMG. Use a blender if you try it.
Though it is a food, not a medicine, maca has some powerful abilities. Accordingly, I suggest that anyone who decides to use it for a specific health purpose must do their homework, speak with their doctor, and start slow, keeping track of dosages and recording effects. For everyone else, hold on to your hat. I have personally experienced the effects of maca on energy levels and libido, and let’s just say it’s a fine combination packed into a tasty food that you definitely want to try!
Lionel is an author, speaker, health and wellness coach. His latest book, 5 Things You Can Do NOW, provides concise, powerful information on how you can get control of your health quickly and easily.
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