Thursday, July 30, 2015

Best and Worst Nutrition Bars

nutrition-barsWhile nutrition bars can be part of a busy, healthy lifestyle, there are a few good reasons they're not stocked next to the kale and blueberries at your grocery store. Many are made with cheap, low-quality ingredients and are hiding tons of sugar and additives that can cause digestive distress and prevent absorption of important nutrients.

To help you avoid those and grab the healthiest one the next time you really need portable protein, we asked Hundt to help us evaluate close to 40 of the most popular bars on the market, based on ingredient lists, nutrient balance, sugar content, and more.

The Five Best Nutrition Bars
best nutrition bars1. Health Warrior Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt Protein Bar
Superfood chia seeds are the protein powerhouse ingredient in this bar, and many of its other clean, whole-food, plant-based ingredients are organic. It has 10g of protein and 5g of fiber to balance out the sugar, plus an omega 3 boost you’ll get from the chia. This is great for people who want something that’s crunchy and slightly sweet for a snack (and for vegans!). It’s delicious and well-balanced in terms of the ingredients. www.healthwarrior.com
best nutrition bars2. Quest Coconut Cashew
The great thing about Quest is just the high fiber and protein content, 17g and 20g, respectively, packed into just 170 calories. Quality ingredients like almonds, coconut, sea salt, and whey protein isolate also satisfy other nutrition requirements, although they’re not organic. One note: do steer clear of Quest’s bars that contain sucralose, like the popular Cookies & Cream. www.questnutrition.com

best nutrition bars3. Oatmega Chocolate Coconut Crisp
This Austin-based brand offers tasty, low-sugar, gluten-free bars made with mostly organic ingredients and whey protein from grass-fed cows. This chocolatey one has 14g of protein, 7g of fiber, and added fish oil (that you don’t taste!) for the essential fatty acids. www.givebar.com

best nutrition bars4. Bonk Breaker Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein
One of the things that athletes eat during long endurance events is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and this bar tastes almost like the real deal. Recommended for right after a really tough workout (or during a super long bike ride), because of its higher sugar content. It comes with natural ingredients and 15g of protein and tastes fantastic. www.bonkbreaker.com

best nutrition bars5. Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry
Perfect for a Paleo eater (who loves jerky), Epic’s bars have only a few ingredients and are literally meaty. This one comes with 11g of protein from nutrient-dense, lean, organic, grass-fed bison meat and uncured bacon, and the only sugar is from dried cranberries. It’s very clean, and sodium can be helpful after a workout to refuel lost electrolytes. (Just be warned: if you're not into chewy hunks of meat, it's not for you.) www.epicbar.com


Five Worst Nutrition Bars
worst nutrition bars1. Luna Bar Lemon Zest
This "bar for women" has more sugar than both protein or fiber and is filled with processed soy in many forms. While some of those are organic, the very first ingredient listed (which means it makes up the highest percentage of the bar) is ultra-processed “soy rice crisps” made with non-organic soy protein isolate, AKA likely GMO soy drenched in pesticides. It also contains “natural flavor” which can disguise many unhealthy additives you don’t want. Let's be clear: they’re just using really cheap ingredients. www.lunabar.com

worst nutrition bars2. ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter
When corn syrup is listed twice on an ingredient list -- in addition to sugar -- take that as a warning sign. This is another bar where you can tell the company is using super cheap ingredients, and non-organic, processed soy is the very first one. And then so many synthetic vitamins are added; you don’t need or want this. www.zoneperfect.com

worst nutrition bars3. ThinkThin High Protein Bar Chunky Peanut Butter
Twenty gram of protein is a great number, but not when that protein is from cheap, processed sources and paired with canola oil and "natural" flavors. Also, "caseinate" ingredients (calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate), can actually suppress mineral absorption, Hundt says, and while the 0g of sugar may intrigue you, the sugar alcohols used to sweeten this bar may do a number on your gut, making you gassy, and giving you diarrhea. Think "no, thanks." www.thinkproducts.com

worst nutrition bars4. PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate Brownie
Let's call this bar “syrup, syrup, syrup” for its whopping 27g of sugar from a variety of sweeteners like cane invert syrup, fructose syrup, and malitol syrup. It’s also got lots of processed, non-organic soy, a combination that's not likely to power you through any workout (or towards long-term health). It’s going to cause you some digestive issues, for sure. www.powerbar.com

worst nutrition bars5. Balance Bar Cookie Dough
You really don't need to add vitamins unless you’re trying to cover up the low-quality ingredients - here is another example of a syrupy, fructose-laden, processed-GMO-soy bar, but boasts its "23 vitamins and minerals" to entice you. What your body will definitely absorb: tons of unhealthy oils and sugar. www.balance.com

best nutrition barsBonus Good-For-You Snack Bars!
These three runner-up picks are less substantial, so they won’t necessarily fill you up or function as post-workout fuel, but they’re great for a quick afternoon snack.

1. GoRaw Live Pumpkin Sprouted Bar 
An option for raw foodies that Hundt likes because it has only a few ingredients and is organic.

2. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
It's a well-balanced snack bar, good ingredients, and low on the sugar. And major bonus: these are super easy to find, from Starbucks to local delis.

3. This Bar Saves Lives Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey
It won't be very filling, but the ingredients look pretty good and it’s a balanced bar for weight maintenance. Not to mention its give-back mission, which is good for your heart.

~Thanks to Lisa Elaine Held and Emily Karr

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Signs You Should See A Therapist

One of the most common questions people ask me when they find out I’m a psychologist is, “How do you know when it’s time to see a therapist?”
We all experience periods of feeling sad, stressed out, anxious or depressed, but these are usually short lived. If you’re experiencing any of the signs below, it’s probably time to seek professional help.
  1. Your mood or emotions are extreme and getting in the way of living the life you want to be living. 
One of the tell tale signs that you might meet criteria for a mental health diagnosis is when your mood is causing problems in your ability to function in your everyday life.
This might mean that you don’t have the energy or the interest to do the things that you used to find enjoyable. Or you might find that you’re having trouble concentrating or performing well at work or school.
If your usually perfectly clean apartment is a total mess or you’ve started uncharacteristically missing payments on your mortgage, these might be signs that you need help getting a handle on your emotions.
  1. You experienced a trauma or a loss and can’t stop thinking about it.
Coping with grief can take time, but if you find that thoughts about your experience are regularly interfering with your life it might be time to see a therapist. Or if you find yourself withdrawing or avoiding things that remind you of the loss, this might mean you need help putting it behind you.
  1. Your friends or family have told you that they’re worried about you.
Sometimes the very nature of how we’re feeling makes it hard for us to recognize the negative impact it’s having on our life. Often the people around you are better able to recognize when you’re struggling with an emotional problem than you are yourself. Many of my patients have come to therapy at the urging of their family members.
However, the impact an emotional problem can have on relationships can show up in the opposite way too. If you find that your irritability has begun putting a strain on your relationships or if you start losing relationships because you’re isolating yourself, these are also signs that the problem is more serious.
  1. You’re using substances to cope with how you feel.
Having a drink to relax or de-stress from time to time isn’t a problem. However, if you find that your drinking or drug use is getting more frequent or more intense, this might be a sign that you’re using it to cope with difficult emotions that you don’t want to feel.
If a loved one has told you that they think you’re drinking too much, you might be inclined to ignore them and chalk it up to nagging—but it’s actually one of the best indications that it’s really a problem.
  1. You’re thinking about death a lot or you’re thinking about hurting yourself. 
When depression and anxiety get severe, it can sometimes feel hopeless. But it’s important to know that treatment can help you feel better. (If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, you can read more about how to deal with them here.)
If your self-destructive thoughts become very intense, and you feel you’re not safe, it’s important to call 911 or go to your local Emergency Room.
One of the best ways to find a therapist is to ask your friends or family members for a recommendation. You can also ask your family physician for a referral. There are also many good organizations that have hotlines and offer resources to help you find a therapist in your area, and you can find some of them here.
~Thanks to Erin Olivo

New FDA Sugar Labeling Proposal Met with Resistance by Sugar Association

The new 2015 dietary guidelines are full of surprises.  One unexpected recommendation includes caffeine is officially approved for adults: the new recommendations allow healthy adults to have 3-5 cups of coffee daily.  Cholesterol is no longer considered to be evil, but it is recommended that we stay within the new 300 milligram count. (1)
sugar

New sugar labeling proposal will require packaged food to label percentage of sugar for daily values

The new recommendations finally challenge America to watch its sugar intake. Proposed is the amount of sugar in each product be accurately recorded, allowing Americans to make better decisions. (2) In the 1970s 
Another new proposal announced on July 24, 2015 is meant to be a supplement to the already proposed rule regarding sugar labeling on pre-packaged foods.  The original proposal did not direct companies to state the percent daily value for sugar. (2)
The new FDA guidelines recommend that Americans should limit their sugar to 10 percent of total daily calories(!).  The committee reported that it may be difficult for consumers to meet nutrient requirements while staying within recommendations for sugar consumption.  The committee hopes that putting the percentage for daily values on labels will make it easier for consumers to make informed and health conscious decisions. (2)
The public has 75 days to respond to the new proposal. The Sugar Association offered their feedback, saying they believe that the FDA is making assertions about added sugars without sufficient scientific evidence, and plan to submit a detailed comment to oppose the proposal and provide evidence as to why the recommendation is misguided.(2)

Limiting sugar may help consumers improve their liver health, decrease type II diabetes, and reduce cancer rates

The link between sugar and diverse health issues has been well documented.  Research shows that when fructose is turned into fat in the liver, this can lead to fat being lodged in the liver and result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Research also shows a direct connection between sugar and insulin resistance, or Type II diabetes. Cancer is one of the leading deaths worldwide. Insulin is the key hormone that regulates growth of cancer cells.  Having elevated insulin levels has been found to contribute to cancer. (3) It is clear that sugar is at the core of chronic health issues.
It would appear that the FDA would have sufficient evidence to support how artificial sugars could be damaging to our health.  The new labels may help consumers understand better exactly how much sugar they are consuming in processed food items. The body needs only 1 tablespoon of sugar per day to perform all of its functions. Any more than this sets off the insulin reaction and starts cravings for more. Sugar is a highly addictive substance and should be avoided.
Sources for this article include:
(1) www.webmd.com
(2) thehill.com
(3) authoritynutrition.com

Sunday, July 26, 2015

7 Things Not To Do When You Give Up Sugar

Sugar has become the new fat, rightly ostracized for making us sick, overweight, tired and prematurely old. As sugar's numerous problems continue to surface, switching to a diet low in the white stuff might be the best thing you can do for your health and waistline. Among sobering sugar statistics, the average person eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and for adolescents that number spikes to a whopping 32 teaspoons. 
Ditching sugar can help you burn fat, feel better and finally crush your addiction, but do it incorrectly and you'll stymie your efforts. Here are seven mistakes you don't want to make when you give up sugar: 
1. Switching to diet sodas.
"By now, we're all aware that diet soda isn't the 'healthy' alternative to regular soda it's sometimes thought to be," writes Allie White. "Studies have found that it messes with blood pressure, increases the risk of heart disease and can cause some serious reproductive issues."
While moving from regular to diet soda will eliminate a huge source of sugar, it's far from healthy and the negative effects far outweigh any positives. 
2. Only eating foods labeled "sugar-free."
Don't think you're better off if you're eating the calorie-free stuff. Artiļ¬cial sweeteners let you think you beat the system by eating something sweet without the calories, but your body isn't in on the trick. It sets its sugar metabolism machinery in motion and screams for glucose, which means you'll probably just end up eating more. 
Ditto for "no sugar added": processed foods with such claims often include artificial sweeteners, excessive amounts of sugar alcohol, and naturally occurring sugar. When in doubt, read the ingredients. 
3. Only eating foods labeled "lite" or "fat-free."
"Light" or "fat free" often become code words for high-sugar impact. "For decades, we blamed fat for making us fat," writes Dr. Mark Hyman. "It sounds so simple, right? Just cut out the fat and you'll get lean. Except while manufacturers touted their 'healthy' fat-free and low-fat Frankenfoods, added sugar was slipping in through the back door, and the consequences have wreaked havoc on our health and our waistlines." 
4. Overdoing it on fruit. 
Fruit is fabulous if you're eating the right kinds in the right amounts. Berries are the best. But be careful, as too much fruit can overload your liver with fructose, which becomes repackaged as triglycerides and finds a nice home around your midsection. If you eat fruit, stick with one or two servings of berries or other lower-glycemic fruit and call it quits. 
5. Completely eliminating sugar all at once.
I know completely dumping sugar all at once becomes conventional wisdom in certain diet circles, but how has that worked for you so far? Exactly. There are a few things going cold turkey will do for you, and losing weight isn't one of them. Instead, you'll be shaky, irritable, lethargic, starving and craving sugar— not the outcome we're after. 
6. Falling for hidden sugars.
Fully aware you're sugar savvy, manufacturers disguise sugar under non-sugar sounding names. Did you know there are 41 other names sugar can hide under on a label? Scrutinize ingredients closely and become aware of any hidden sugars. 
7. Falling for sneaky sugars. 
You may be eating more sugar than you realize. Sneaky sources include balsamic vinaigrette dressings, marinara sauce, glazed meats, and fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. Scrutinize ingredients closely, ask your server questions and never assume any food is automatically low-sugar impact just because it doesn't taste sweet.
~Thanks to JJ Virgin

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

10 Ways to Find Time for Exercise

What's the No. 1 excuse for no working out? Lack of time. Sure, we're all busy handling multiple priorities and rushing around from here and there every day. However, I promise that no matter how busy you are, someone even busier than you are is working out right now. If you look closer, you'll discover that you do have the time to work out—and you deserve to use that time for yourself.
 
Squeezing in just a few minutes of physical exercise a day has huge benefits on your health, gives you energy and perks up your mood. In fact, a new study published by The Lancet found that if inactive people increased their physical activity by just 15 minutes per day, they could reduce their risk of premature death by 14% and increase their life expectancy by three years.  Also, remember that "working out" doesn't have to happen in the gym or last for an hour! Short 10-minute bursts of exercise accumulated over the course of the day, can add up to big fitness and health gains, too.
 
Still not convinced that you have the time to exercise? Here's how to start fitting fitness into your busy life today!
 
10 Practical Tips to Fit Fitness into Your Busy Life
 
1. Wake up earlier. Sleep is definitely important for overall health and weight loss, but could you hit the sheets just 30 minutes earlier, so that you could get up and work out before your day starts? Working out in the morning has numerous benefits including regulating appetite, boosting energy and—perhaps the biggest benefit of all—an A.M. sweat session ensures that your workout is checked off first thing each day! Because really, how many times have you had the best intentions to exercise in the evening, only to have to work late, help your kids with a project or generally just feel too exhausted to get off the couch? With morning workouts, the time problem is solved!
 
2. Cut down on media. For just a few days, record how much time you spend surfing the Internet, checking personal email, watching TV and playing video games whether it's on your computer or your phone. You just might be surprised at how much time you spend on Facebook or playing Angry Birds. Just a few minutes here and there can add up to an hour or more each day. Cut out just some of that screen time and, voila, you suddenly have time to squeeze in at least 10 or 15 minutes of exercise into even the busiest day.

3. Be an active TV watcher. It's unrealistic to never watch TV or to shun the Internet forever.  So when you do, try to incorporate some physical activity. When watching TV, make it a point to do some jumping jacks or push-ups during commercials. Doing a little exercise during the commercial breaks can add up to almost 20 minutes of fitness for every hour of TV you watch. And instead of sitting in a chair when on the computer, try sitting on a stability ball or stack your computer up on some books so that you have a standing desk to surf from. No matter how you do it, try not to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time!
 
4. Try an active commute. One of the best ways to fit exercise into your life is by incorporating it into your school or work transportation routine. If you live close enough, consider biking to work. If you take the bus, walk to a bus stop that's an extra block or two away, or get off the bus a stop sooner than usual and get a few more steps in. And if you drive to work, park as far away as you can—even a few blocks away, if possible.
 
5.  Make it part of your routine. One reason it's so challenging to fit exercise into a busy schedule is because we're not used to doing it. Heck, it takes time to brush your teeth in the morning, but you do it, don't you? You brush your teeth every day because it's important and because it's almost second nature to get up and do it. Start making some form of exercise—whether it's walking the dog, doing 10 minutes of  yoga or going for a bike ride after dinner—a daily tradition, just like showering, brushing your teeth or hitting the coffee shop on the way to work. It's easy to fit in exercise for a few days here or there, but by incorporating it into your daily routine like you would your hygiene, you take the process of working out away from willpower and into habit. 
 
6. Mix socializing with exercising. Do you normally spend time with your family or friends by going to dinner, watching sports on TV or going to movies? Make your social time more active by planning events that get all of you moving. Go for a family hike on a beautiful Saturday morning, play a game of tag football with your buddies during halftime, or make a date with your significant other or best friend on the treadmill. There are so many options for squeezing more activity into your social calendar!

7. Turn chores into exercise. While cleaning might not be the most fun activity, it's something we all have to do, and it can definitely be a workout if you want it to be. Set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes and see how much of the house you can clean. Try to be as efficient and quick-paced as possible, and I guarantee you'll work up a sweat. If you're doing lighter housework that is harder to get your heart rate up (like laundry or organizing), throw in some lunges or push-ups every few minutes to start feeling the burn!
 
8. Schedule an appointment. If you had scheduled a doctor's appointment, you wouldn't miss it would you? How about that important business meeting? Of course not. Working out is actually as important as going to the doctor or any other obligation that you prioritize, because it helps you perform better as a worker, parent, student or volunteer, and keeps you in tip-top shape. So whether it's scheduling in an hour to go to that group exercise class, investing in personal training sessions or even making a date with yourself to do that workout DVD over your lunch break, write it in pen in your calendar and treat it like any other appointment you can't miss!
 
9. Find an activity you love. Think of your favorite hobby or pastime. Do you have trouble finding time to do it? Most likely, you make time for it because you enjoy it so much. It's the things we don't enjoy that we put off and don't feel bad about missing. That's why it's best to choose a physical activity that you actually enjoy and look forward to. Not only are you more likely to do it, but it also adds more fun into your life. And we all could use some more fun in our busy lives, right?
 
10. Say no. If you've gone through this entire list of tips and don't think a single one will work in your life, then it's time to look at your priorities and responsibilities. Do you really have to bake cookies for that fundraiser? Babysit for your sister? Take on that extra project at work? Attend that wedding shower of your second cousin? Remember that there's nothing wrong in saying no. Yes, we all have obligations to others, but don't forget about the obligation you have to yourself to take care of your body and your health.
 
Remember, exercise gives you energy and keeps you healthy to keep going in that busy life of yours! So don't think of exercise as another to-do to squeeze in on your already busy schedule. Instead, think of it as maintenance for your health and a way to de-stress and do something for you!

~Thanks to Spark People

Friday, July 17, 2015

Too Much Sun? A Cooling DIY Treatment

With vacation season in full swing, many are battling the first or second (or third ...) sunburn of the season. Those of us who've been kissed by the sun a little more than we'd like know how that skin sometimes feels hot to the touch, itchy,  generally uncomfortable - and will sometimes create difficulty sleeping! 
While oils and lotions are great for healing the skin, both act as protective barriers that hold heat in. Instead, you'll want to reach first for a cooling spray. By using an after-sun spray before oil or lotion, you draw the heat out, which is the first step to mending sun-meets-skin snafus. 
So the next time you have a little too much fun in the sun, try this after-sun spray for the relief your skin needs. 
Cooling After-Sun Spray
Ingredients
  • 1 oz pure aloe vera gel
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil*
  • 5 drops frankincense essential oil*
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil*
  • 2 oz witch hazel
  • 2 oz apple cider vinegar
Preparation
Combine all ingredients in a small spray bottle. Shake well and store in refrigerator to intensify the cooling effect. After a day in the sun, spritz your skin to soothe and moisturize. This tonic should keep for up to one month in the fridge.
Here's the rundown on how each ingredient will benefit your post-sun skin: 
  • Aloe vera gel: A powerhouse soother and healer
  • Lavender: This essential oil is analgesic, meaning it'll help relieve pain and regenerate cell tissue.
  • Frankincense: Promotes cell regeneration and provides pain relief 
  • Peppermint: Antibacterial and antiseptic, plus it'll help cool skin
  • Witch hazel: Its anti-inflammatory powers will aid skin in healing 
  • Apple cider vinegar: A class remedy to stop the sting of the burn

*While therapeutic essential oils can play a huge role in supporting your skins health, please ensure that you that you are using quality essential oils on your skin. If you're unsure of the quality of your essential oil, please don't use it on sunburned skin, as synthetic chemicals can make a burn worse.
~Thanks to Eryn Ricker

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How To Make Alkaline Water to Normalize Your Body’s pH

Water is the most valuable resource in the world. About 70 percent of the human body and brain are made up from waterWater is so vital to our survival in every sense of the word. Alkalized water has the highest level of hydration and is a excellent source of minerals for our body.
Because of today’s fast-paced life, our nutrition can consist largely of processed foods that include salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol – these create the most common form of pH imbalance: excess aciditySymptoms that point to your body's acidity are tiredness, headache, stomachache and a weakened immune system.
If the environment in our bodies is too acid, our otherwise healthy cells can become toxic. An unbalanced pH damages the tissues. If the body experiences an acidic environment for an extended period, in an effort to alkalize itself it will ultimately deposit excess acidic substances into some area of the body. 
Our body's surveillance systems are responsible for our pH balance values, and they remove acid residue without damaging living cells. So protect and regenerate your body by making this alkaline water and drinking it on a daily basis.
How To Make Alkaline Water And Normalize Your Body’s pH!
The preparation is easy.
  • 2 liters water, clean filtered water 
  • 1 organic lemon, washed, cut into eights
  • 1 teaspoon of Himalayan salt
Fill a large jar with filtered water, than add the lemon slices (do not squeeze them!) and then add 1 teaspoon of Himalayan salt in it and cover it. Let it sit overnight (8-12 hours) at room temperature.
Drink 3 glasses of water every morning when you wake up, before you eat or drink anything else, to achieve the best pH balance in your body.
Start trying it tomorrow and your body will thank you!

When to Take Vitamin/Mineral Supplements

 Few rules of thumb:
  • If you take a large dose of a mineral, it will compete with other minerals to reduce their absorption. The mineral most often taken in large amounts is calcium: The dose is usually several hundred of milligrams, compared to doses of just a few milligrams or even microgram amounts (1,000 micrograms = 1 milligram) of most other minerals. So if you take a calcium supplement, take it at a different time of day than other mineral supplements or a multivitamin/multimineral supplement. Doses of magnesium can also be relatively large and should, ideally, be taken apart from other minerals. If you take high doses of zinc long-term (50 mg or more per day for 10 weeks or longer ), be aware that it can cause copper deficiency, so you may need to supplement with copper as well. 

  • Some vitamins can actually enhance the absorption of other nutrients. Vitamin C, for example, can enhance iron absorption from supplements and plant foods.

  • The fat-soluble vitamins (ADE, and K) are likely to be better absorbed if taken with a meal that contains fats. In fact, one study found that taking vitamin D with dinner rather than breakfast increased blood levels of vitamin D by about 50%. However, evidence (mainly from animal and cell studies) suggests that moderate to large doses of fat-soluble vitamins reduce absorption of other fat-soluble vitamins - by about 10 to 50% - due to competition. Absorption of vitamin K appears to be particularly reduced by other fat-soluble vitamins, while vitamin A absorption is least affected and may actually be better absorbed when taken with vitamin E (Goncalves, Food Chem 2015). Taking vitamins D, E, or K several hours before or after other fat-soluble vitamins would seem to maximize their absorption.

  • Taking certain supplements with food can reduce gastrointestinal side-effects. For example, taking magnesium with food can reduce the occurrence of diarrhea, and taking iron with food can reduce the chance of stomach upset.
~Thanks to Consumer Lab, whose mission is to identify the best quality health and nutrition products 
through independent testing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Avocados Can Easily Replace Dairy in All Your Favorite Creamy Dishes

Most everyone loves avocados these days, and with studies indicating their benefits in keeping your heart healthy, satiating your appetite, and even lowering your blood sugar, we thought we’d share some fun tips to use them best. Using avocados in your recipes you'll find they’re healthy and filling, and they also have the same creamy texture as dairy foods. Except avocados come with no cholesterol, saturated fat, milk sugar (lactose), excess hormones, tummy troubles, and of course are vegetarian/vegan.  Avocados are also pretty sensational flavor-wise: rich, buttery and even slightly sweet in the right recipe. Their soluble fiber helps regulate your blood sugar, assists with the removal of cholesterol and keeps your digestive system functioning. Try using them to create creamy dishes where you normally reach for butter, milk, eggs, cream... even yogurt and cheese.
Here are five ways to use avocados  - don't worry about their fat content avocados - because they are so satiating, use just a little - you'll fill up quickly, and their alkalizing benefits, vitamins and minerals will keep your body feeling great!

1. Use Them in Smoothies in Place of Yogurt

avocadosmoothie
If you’ve ever gotten used to a smoothie with yogurt, you know that creamy texture is hard to beat. Bananas can lend that same creamy flavor, but sometimes you don’t want a smoothie to taste like bananas, and some of us don’t want all that sugar. Just 1/4 an avocado is the answer! It will give that same creamy, thick texture, but without the sugar and dairy. It even sweetens up a bit if you let the smoothie freeze for about 5 minutes before consuming. You’ll  probably notice you’re a bit more full using avocado in your smoothies as well, since their healthy fat and fiber content will better stabilize your blood sugar. Try them with some berries, cacao, and a little non-dairy milk (almond, rice or hemp milk). It will knock your socks off!

2. Make Them Into Mousse

vegan-avocado-mousse1
No need for milk or cream here! Avocados are a great way to make a healthy dessert like mousse, that will truly taste like the rich, creamy pudding like dessert you’ve always loved. They help lend that whipped, fluffy texture and adopt the flavor of whatever other ingredients you use in the mix. Popular combinations are cacao to make a chocolate mousse, but you could easily use vanilla, berries, coconut, peanut butter, or even mint to make your favorite flavor mousse! 

3. Whip Them Into a Batch of Brownies and Forget the Butter!

vegan-brownies_1
Brownies are indeed a favorite dessert. You just can’t go wrong with a rich, chocolate dessert, right? Well, brownies are one of the easiest dishes to substitute healthy ingredients with, and avocados are one of the best because they’re rich and provide that fatty flavor like butter and oil (but without any negative health risks) and they don't influence the taste in the overall recipe. Not sure how to use them in your next batch? Use them to replace oil or butter in your favorite recipe and you'll be amazed at the results!

4. Cream Them Into a Dressing

vegrt6
Avocados are also one of the best ingredients to use in a dairy-free salad dressing. Or, you can simply mash them into your salads to lend similar results. To add them to a dressing, add 1/2 a ripe avocado to your blender with a squeeze of lemon, maybe a little sea salt, a pinch of black pepper and some mustard or hot sauce. Blend and feel free to add any herbs you might enjoy as well to make 2 servings. Use this as your dressing and you’ll never want the bottled dressings again! 

5. Use Them as a Taco Filling in Place of Sour Cream

tacos2c-fixed1
Most everyone knows you can use avocados to make your own guacamole, but what about using it completely in place of sour cream in your tacos? The healthiest and tastiest way to go is just to use some good old guac instead.  Keep things simple and mash up a ripe avocado, add a little lime juice and black pepper and there you go – a rich, creamy delicious cream without a bit of sour cream needed. The lime will help give it that tart kick that cream does and also enhance the flavors of your other taco ingredients like tomatoes. 
If you’ve never tried out these options, don’t be intimidated. They’re so easy, and will surprise you at how tasty they are - for sure  you’ll love these versions over the dairy-based options.
~Thanks onegreenplanet.org

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