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Blog

This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

Filtering by Tag: organic

How To Make Almond Butter

Becca Crawford

I am often asked about nut butters.

To be honest I am not a huge fan of them. And here’s why: It takes a lot of nuts to yield a very small amount of nut butter. eg 1.5 cups of almonds yields only a bit more than 1/2 cup of almond butter.  

So you end up consuming a heck of a lot of nuts in each spoonful of nut butter, much much more than you should typically eat if you were eating whole nuts. And what’s wrong with nuts? In small amounts, for those who don’t have digestive issues or mineral deficiencies, nuts are awesome and in fact ranked as the 3rd most nutrient-dense food on the planet behind organ meats and herbs and spices (according Harvard University Chemist Dr Mat Lalonde. Check out pages 70-71 of Chris Kresser’s book “Your Personal Paleo Code” 2014 for a list of the most nutrient-dense foods). However nuts do contain more omega 6 than omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (which has an inflammatory effect on the body).

Secondly, unactivated nuts (ie nuts that have not been properly prepared through soaking and dehydrating) contain phytic acid which leaches minerals from the body and leads to digestive issues. Without doing a full due diligence I bet all store-bought nut butter are made from nuts that have not been properly prepared or “activated” (happy to be proved wrong here).

Thirdly, nut butters are typically consumed on bread and I have spend the past decade trying to reduce the amount of gluten (and grains generally for that matter) from my and my kids’ diet. The reasons for this go beyond the scope of this post but contact me should you wish to discuss the relevance and effect of grains on the human body.  The occasional consumption of smallish amounts of gluten-free properly prepared grains is fine for those without digestive issues (eg rice, buckwheat).

So eating huge amounts of nut butters, especially when the nuts are not activated, involves taking a massive omega 6 and phytic acid hit. It’s is a bit like the orange juice analogy where you end up consuming the fructose equivalent of 5 oranges in 1 glass of orange juice even though you couldn’t possibly eat 5 oranges in one sitting.

So if you are going to consume nut butters here’s what i suggest:

1. it’s best to make them yourself at home from activated nuts; and

2. consume only small amounts eg a couple mouthfuls at a time especially for youngsters.

Here’s how to make almond butter.  It’s dead easy:

Ingredients:

2 cups of salted activated almonds
2 tablespoons of coconut oil

Directions:

Process ingredients in a food processor for 15 minutes (yes that long!) stopping the food processor every few minutes to scrap down the sides and to prevent the machine from overheating. If making larger amounts, add the nuts in batches in the food processor.

Some recipes don’t require the addition of coconut oil. I found that without the coconut oil this makes the almond butter really hard to swallow and gets stuck on the back of your throat (hardly pleasant). Because my activated nuts are salted I don’t need to add additional salt. If yours are not salted you might like to add 1/4 tsp salt to the food processor.

Serve:

Eat straight off the spoon as is for a decadent dessert or snack, or with vegetable sticks, or smeared on slices of apple or pineapple, or drizzled onto pancakes or on a slice of traditionally prepared bread (stay tuned for my future posts on various buckwheat loaves – they are still a work in progress). Some add nut butters to their smoothies.  You can add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup onto your nut butter (which I did as you can see in the above photo).

Storage:

Nut butters keep for many weeks in a sealed container or jar in the fridge. The downside is that they will go quite hard though in the fridge. They will keep a few days out of the fridge.

Variations:

You can substitute any other type of nut. Macadamias don’t require as long in the food processor presumably due to their higher oil content. You just need to keep processing until the nuts reach the consistency of a smooth, creamy, butter. This will depend on the type of nut and how powerful your food processor is. You can flavour or sweeten your nut butter by adding the following while processing such as:

  • raw cacao powder, cinnamon powder, and/or vanilla bean powder
  • raw honey or maple syrup
  • turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic powder and/or chilli flakes (I’ve made turmeric and brazil nut butter before)

In this way you can make your own spreads and butters without resorting to expensive store bought varieties. Have you made nut butter before?  What ingredients did you use?

The photos below show you the transition from whole almonds to almond butter at 4 minute intervals over 15 minutes of processing.

Reflect! ...on Nora Gedgaudas

mystaranise

Last November I went and saw Nora Gedgaudas, the author of Primal Body Primal Mind, during her Australian tour. It was an all day seminar at UNSW. While I have the utmost respect for her as an author, and I found her book very insightful, I couldn't help but feel a tad disappointed when I later reflected on the seminar. I was disappointed that she was not very specific in answering my friend's question on the need for supplements. Nora said that she thought that supplements "have a role to play" but didn't specify the circumstances in which they have a role ie in all circumstances or only some? I was disappointed that she couldn't answer my question on dairy consumption. I asked whether our ice-age ancestors consumed dairy to which she answered no, so when I asked her whether we should be consuming it she skirted around the issue saying "well there's a big question mark around that". I'm sorry but I think that's a bit of a cop out answer on such a significant issue for someone who holds themselves out as knowledge in the field of nutrition. She really avoided dealing with the whole dairy issue. (For what its worth I actually couldn't agree more with Chris Kresser's view on dairy that simply because something wasn't eaten by our hunter gatherer ancestors doesn't mean that we shouldn't eat it- we can PROVIDED 3 conditions are met: (a) its nutrient-dense - which whole unprocessed pastured dairy is, (b) its non-toxic - and whole unprocessed pastured dairy is not toxic- unlike grains/legumes which do contain toxins in the outer husk and (c) you body has the enzymes to digest it. And I'd probably add a fourth being (d) you like the taste of it and enjoy eating it.... if so then BRING IT ON!! She also couldn't answer my question on what proportion/percentage of macro-nutrients (fat, protein and carbs) a typical meal could comprise. She took a hard line on 100% avoidance of grain consumption (ok, I get that) but didn't state what the consequences were  if you very occasionally consumed it if you are not showing any untoward symptoms of grain consumption. Try as hard as you may it is virtually impossible to raise a child on a completely grain-free diet in modern society (the minute they step foot outside the house its basically the main staple of what is given to them eg at restaurants, friends houses, preschools, birthday parties etc). Nora doesn't have kids of her own so this explains her "there is no room for error"/ "you cant be half pregnant" approach. We are all human and as a parent in particular I make mistakes or bend the principles on my journey all the time, and wont the consumption of nutrient-dense foods 99% of the time compensate for the consumption of properly prepared grains the other 1% of the time? For those who saw Nora too- what were your thoughts? (Leave comments below!) Despite my above disappointments it was awesome being immersed in a community of people aspiring to raise consciousness and I made some new contacts and connected with others I hadn't seen in a while.

 

Drink! ...salt?

mystaranise

One of my close friends recently reminded me of the importance of hydration as one of the key foundations of health. Yes, I've known for an age that what we drink is important and directly affects our health and I know that we should add unrefined salt to our drinking (preferably filtered) water, but what I didn't fully appreciate is that it can actually be dangerous to drink Unsalted water. Here's why: The human body requires that the salt concentration of the blood be kept constant. If you drink unsalted water, the body tries to restore the proper salt concentration balance by excreting water (eg via sweating, urinating etc) which leads to dehydration. It is not possible to quench your thirst by drinking more and more unsalted water as the body will continue to excrete water to restore the proper concentration of salt in the blood. The body also tries to restore the vital salt concentration balance by drawing salt out of vital organs (eg kidneys) and bones (which hence weakens them) and transporting the salt into the blood stream. In severe cases of drinking large amounts of unsalted water resulting in dangerously low blood sodium levels, called “hyponatremia”, common in marathon runners, the result is a gradual desiccation of the body and finally death- you literally die of thirst. Scary stuff hey. When I told my other half about the importance of adding salt to our water he quickly retorted back with "are you telling me that our hunter gatherer ancestors added salt to their water?" Ok, good point. So I diligently went off to do further research on this point and found that "The hunter gatherer obtains the salt he needs from the blood of animals (and sometimes the urine), which concentrate salt from the plants that they eat" (MR Block, The Social Influence of Salt, July 1963, reprinted in Scientific American, 1978). Now I dont know about you, but no matter how 'primal' I feel I think I'll draw the line at drinking blood and urine, so pass me that bottle of salted water please! There is actually a formula for the amount of salt to add to water: its 1/4 teaspoon per 1 litre. This is more than just a "pinch". At first it will taste unpleasantly salty but you do get used to it and will begin to love the taste of it (think of the taste of licked skin straight out of the surf....sorry if that sounds a bit kinky...). Back to the importance of salt (and of course I'm talking about unrefined salt here like sea salt and not table salt which is heavily refined and toxic)....Like saturated fat from natural sources, salt is absolutely essential to our survival, which is why we are literally hard wired to like the taste of it. Salt provides the minerals chloride, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Salt plays a key role in numerous body functions including enzyme function, energy production, hormone production, protein transport, nerve conduction, assimilation of nutrients into the cells, maintenance of blood pressure and volume, muscular activity, digestion of food, brain development and metabolism. Salt allows you to absorb and retain more fluids (which is especially critical for athletic recovery).

Numerous studies have shown that when the salt concentration of the blood is reduced to low levels it can result in a loss of smell and taste, weight loss, headaches, nausea, nightmares, muscle cramps, lethargy, speaking difficulties, dulled mental capacity, reduced co-ordination, depression and/or insulin resistance (the precursor to type 2 diabetes)- do any of these symptoms ring true for you??  In these studies, all subjects returned to normal health and vigor after resuming salt intake. So don't be shy about adding unrefined salt to your foods and water especially in these warmer summer months when we sweat more and excrete more salt.

As to how much water to drink, there's a formula for that too (your body weight in kgs x 0.033, plus extra if you're exercising) but I think this grossly under-represents our hydration requirements. I weigh 52-53kg and easily drink around 5+ litres a day no problem if my water bottle is in easy reach which is 3 litres more than the recommended 1.7 litres for my weight. Don't wait until you're thirsty- by then your cells are already massively dehydrated. The best indication I think as to whether you're sufficiently hydrated is the colour of your urine- it should be clear not yellow.

Ok I'll get off my saltbox (bad joke, I know, but rather cute, no?) but if you want more information check out http://www.watercure.com/faq.html or “Salt of the Earth” by Sally Fallon Morell, Wise Traditions, Summer 2011, p29.