The warm and rich flavor of maple syrup offers several unique nutritional benefits, unlike most sweeteners which have little to no nutrient value.
Maple syrup, as one of the least processed sweeteners, is recommended above others. It is a naturally occurring sweetener with a lower glycemic index compared to other granulated sugars or syrups. Mayple syrup also contains a complex carbohydrate, inulin, which serves as a prebiotic to promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, ultimately aiding in gut health and digestion.
In addition to helping your gut, maple syrup can help with your immune system, as 1 tablespoon provides 6% of the daily recommended intake of zinc and 33% of the daily recommended intake of manganese. Maple syrup also contains inflammation reducing antioxidants, similar to those contained in molasses and brown sugar, whereas refined sugars and agave nectar do not. Also, make sure that you are purchasing 100% pure maple syrup, and organic if possible. Maple Syrups that are not labeled as pure often contain unwanted additives and filler sweeteners that decrease this spectacular sweetener's power!
Next time you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, chose maple syrup, the sweet treat with benefits! You can also experience its flavor and benefits in our very popular Maple Nut Munch!
Addie Dulaney Majnaric, RDN graduate of West Virginia University, where she received her dual Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and Human Nutrition and Foods and minor in Strength & Conditioning. Addie recently finished her supervised practice rotations, and passed her licensure exam to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is very excited to begin helping people reach their happiest and healthiest selves through a vegan diet!
Coconut has gotten a lot of publicity lately, whether it be from its oil form or water. This tropical food can be classified as a fruit, a nut, and a seed. Coconut is packed with options, as it can be eaten in various ways.
Coconut meat can be eaten raw or dried, and is a great source of dietary fiber, protein, fats, and other micronutrients.
Coconut water is excellent for hydration as its rich in potassium and other electrolytes. The water also contains beneficial antioxidants, enzymes, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, manganese and zinc. And to top it all off, coconut water is a perfect low calorie and low sugar beverage!
And last but not least, is the controversial coconut oil. Coconut oil went from being highly promoted to now demonized for its saturated fat content. So what is really the truth? Coconut oil does contain a high percentage of saturated fats. But unlike many saturated fats from animals, coconut oil has mostly medium-chain fatty acids, which have the potential to raise your good cholesterol, otherwise known as your HDL. But remember, there is still saturated fat, which when eaten in excess can increase your bad cholesterol, your LDL. So like most foods, moderation is key! Another positive aspect of coconut oil is that it is considered a stable oil, which means it is a good fat to cook with because it can be heated to high temperatures without forming harmful by-products like animal fats and some vegetable oils can. Try to remember that fats are not bad, and in fact needed for absorption of fat soluble vitamins. It is the amount that you are eating and the kind that can be detrimental to your health.
To sum up the benefits, when you eat coconut you are getting:
Healthy fats needed for vitamin and mineral digestion & absorption
Benefits for skin, hair, and nails
Whole food, plant-based energy
HDL improvement potential when eaten in moderation
And not to mention…. We LOVE to use coconut in its various forms in our truffles, munches, and power bites!! Grab some today and enjoy yet another healing, plant-based ingredient!
Chocolate has been an ancient tradition in many cultures for centuries and is often associated with love. One of the first links between chocolate and falling in love was established by the Mayans, who discovered a ritual beverage made from cocoa mixed with water, black pepper, vanilla and spices. Mayan brides and grooms shared the mixture during marriage ceremonies. This eurphoric elixir is also said to be associated with their god of fertility.
Although it’s always “sweet” to receive a delicious box of chocolates from the object of your affection, this treat also has many health benefits. Here are nine reasons why you and your honey should share a little dark chocolate this Valentine’s Day.
Boost brain power: Dark chocolate contains the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and green tea, which have both been shown to boost brain activity. Researchers have found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.
Increase circulation: Epicatechin is a flavanol which has been shown to reduce hypertension, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. How? Epicatechins stimulate nitric oxide production within the body, which dilates blood vessels and reduces blood clots. Researchers have shown a direct relationship between the amount of flavanol-rich dark chocolate and epicatechin levels in the body. More epicatechin equals more antioxidant power.
Eliminate winter cough: Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to relieve cough symptoms by suppressing vagal nerve activity. A cousin to caffeine, but not as potent, theobromine can also help you feel more alert and awake. (Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content in chocolate is quite low with approximately 26 mg per 1.5 ounces of chocolate compared to 160 mg per 8 ounces of coffee.)
Lose weight: In one research study, those who enjoyed dark chocolate ate 15 percent fewer calories compared to those who ate milk chocolate, and reported feeling fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. Love what you eat and lose weight!
Experience healthy, glowing skin: Flavanoids, natural antioxidants found in cacao, help protect plants from environmental toxins and repair damage. When we consume flavanoid-rich chocolate, those same benefits help our body fight toxins, free radicals and oxidative DNA damage. Chocolate facial anyone?
Alleviate PMS: Craving dark chocolate during certain times of the month? There may be a reason. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral that may help alleviate PMS symptoms, including cramps, water retention, fatigue, depression and irritability.
Lower LDL cholesterol: Studies have shown that subjects who ate about 1.25 ounces of dark chocolate a day had lower LDL levels compared to those who did not. The researchers attribute this to dark chocolates’ potent antioxidant content.
Decrease Stress: Swiss researchers found that subjects who ate dark chocolate when feeling stressed were able to significantly reduce their stress hormones. (By the way, grabbing ice cream or milk chocolate when stressed doesn’t count!)
Make happy babies: Really? Possibly. Women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than those who avoided dark chocolate. One Finnish study claimed happier babies of moms who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy.
Although there is no recommended ‘dose’ for dark chocolate, it’s perfectly fine (and, in fact, good for you) to eat a daily 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. (Remember, choose dark, organic and dairy free as milk protein binds to the healthy components in cacao).
One ounce of dark chocolate from nicobella looks like this:
Yep, it's true. Eating dark chocolate can increase circulation and lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate has even been studied during pregnancy, showing that expecting women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy had a lower incidence of high blood pressure, which equates to a healthier pregnancy and fetal outcome.
(Note: 1 oz a day is great! One chocolate bar a day may not be. Women in their third trimester, check with your doctor before consuming dark chocolate daily.)
What is in dark chocolate that helps to lower blood pressure? Polyphenols are naturally found plant nutrients in cacao (same healthy nutrients found in red wine and green tea) that offer many health benefits, and one of them is to help with blood pressure. Polyphenols are the main source of antioxidants in cacao. Crazy fact: there are more than 8000 phenolic compounds in cacao! The class of polyphenols that are responsible for increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure are catechins and epicatechins. These substances decrease blood pressure by helping to produce nitric oxide within our body. Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to relax and dilate, and oxygen flow to increase. It also helps to decrease clotting and reduce inflammation.
It's important to choose dark chocolate because the milk in milk chocolate binds with the polyphenols making them unavailable for their healing affects. It's also important to choose organic as organic cacao has been shown to be higher in polyphenols than non-organic varieties. Sorry guys, that doesn't mean more chocolate is better. It's still recommended that you stick with 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. But enjoy that little bit of dark every day!
Calling all chocolate lovers! Join us each Thursday as we explain exactly why you should be eating dark chocolate every day for good health. Before we begin the journey, it's important to know why chocolate was so important in ancient Mesoamerican history. For centuries, its been used for its medicinal properties, before there was any research to back the anecdotal homage. Here are some fun facts about cacao and how it was used by indigenous cultures before it became what we know today as chocolate.
But first, we should let you know that any orders place today through Sunday will receive a free sample of our Chocolate Chip Power Bites! No discount needed, we will automatically add them into your package.
Okay, read on...
- Theobroma tree:” food of the gods” was named in 1737
- Some scientists believe that cacao's origin is from Mesoamerica, which included Central and South Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras, while other scientists believe its origin is from South America.
- Analysts have detected cacao in pottery that was used in ceremonial rituals from Mesoamerica dating all the way back to 600-400 BC.
- Cacao was illustrated as a symbol of wealth and power in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
- Gifts of cacao were exchanged during agricultural ceremonies to help produce healthy and abundant crops. The Theobroma tree thrives on water, the shade of other trees and helps to preserve rain forests, therefore provides a healthy eco-system.
- A traditional drink of cacao and corn was offered during marriage ceremonies representing wealth, success and fertility.
- The Florentine Codex (a manuscript depicting the history of Central Mexican society) noted an Aztec remedy using cacao, corn and spices that were used to decrease a fever, shortness of breath and heart disease in 1590.
- Cocoa brought to Europe in the 16th century
- When the Spanish brought cacao back to Europe from Mesoamerica in the 16th century, they created over 100 medicinal uses using the seed.
“where there is cacao, there is life”-Venzuelan plantation worker
Want some potent chocolate? Check out our 75% organic and fair trade Mocha Munch below. It's been out top seller since it's launched!
As we approach Earth Day on April 22nd, it’s the perfect time to reflect on our personal practices and inquire what we are currently doing and what we can do better to honor, respect and preserve Mother Earth for our time now, and for future generations. From now through April 22nd, we will be doing just that – reflecting on our own personal practices and practices of those around us. We will highlight certain areas where we, as a society, can make positive changes and embrace eco-friendly ways. One food-related practice that's extremely important to all of us at nicobella is the use of palm oil.
What is palm oil? Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit. The palm fruit is originally from Western Africa, however can grow wherever heat and rainfall are abundant.
The palm oil industry is linked to major environmental issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses (homes taken away from indigenous people in order to plant palm and, in some areas, palm oil plantations are linked to child slavery). The World Wildlife Fund states that rainforest areas equivalent to 300 football fields are cleared every hour to make way for the palm oil industry. This destruction is leading many species to extinction. For example, the Sumatran elephant is losing its home due to palm oil plantations. It’s becoming more and more difficult for the elephant families to find food and water, making it impossible to survive. Scientists estimate that orangutans could become extinct from the wild in the next 20 years. With no rainforests available the orangutans are forced to live in palm plantations where they are viewed as an annoyance and either shot or captured, babies ripped away from their moms, and sold illegally to the wildlife trade. It is estimated that the Sumatran tiger will be extinct within the next three years, again, due to palm oil. Can you imagine a world without elephants, tigers or orangutans?
Palm Oil is not only a problem for the local rainforests. When rainforests are cleared, a significant amount of carbon pollution is released, making palm oil a major driver of human induced climate change. (source, Rainforest Action Network)
So why is there such a high demand for palm oil? Big companies love the versatility of palm oil because it’s inexpensive, shelf stable and can be used in everything from food to cosmetics to household cleaners, making it a very profitable ingredient. When research started to emerge about the negative effects of trans fats in our food, companies quickly jumped on board to remove those trans fats. What did they replace it with? Yes, you guessed it, palm oil. It’s currently found in roughly half the packaged products sold in US grocery stores, including snack foods like ice cream, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, instant noodles, peanut butter, cereals, doughnuts and potato chips. (source, Rainforest Action Network)
What about sustainable palm oil? There is palm oil that is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) who enforces criteria and policies to help reduce the negative impacts of palm oil plantations on the environment, animals and communities. There is a set of environmental and social criteria, created by RSPO, which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize negative impacts. You can read more about their principles and criteria here.
What can you do about this environmental, animal welfare and human crisis? Read ingredients. If it says palm oil (and it’s not organic or CSPO), put it back on the shelf. Your dollar has more power than you know. By not purchasing products made with palm oil, you’re committing to preserve the rainforest and the wildlife that inhabits it, fighting climate change and being a voice for indigenous people who are treated unfairly on these plantations. By not purchasing a product with palm oil you’re also committing to not support a company who’s financial interests overpower the interest of the planet and its species (including you).
If you’d like to take further action, visit the Rainforest Action Network to see how you can be more involved. Also, be sure to check out the Snack Food 20 to see how your favorite companies score on responsibility and integrity.
If you want to view two impactful videos on the issue, see below. Warning: keep tissues by your side.
Palm Oil: How Our Consumer Choices Affect Wildlife
Orangutan Asks Girl For Help In Sign Language
Please share and keep the conversation going. Let us know your thoughts and what you find in your food ingredients, household cleaners and body care products.
This delicious dish is perfect for a chilly weekend when you want to snuggle up on the couch inside and watch a good movie. The Mayan inspired ancho chili and cocoa powder creates a unique flavor unlike any other three bean chili you've tried. Plus it's super simple to make (simple yet healthy is right up our alley). Let us know what you think!
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large orange pepper, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14oz can black beans
1 14oz can red kidney beans
3 Tbsp cumin powder
3 Tbsp ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder (nicobella hot cocoa mix works!)
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt (can add more at the end if desired, but the spices really give it a kick!)
1 14 oz can vegan refried beans
Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a soup pot and add the onion, peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes to soften vegetables. Deglaze the pan with the veggie broth. Add tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans and stir.
Add the cumin, ancho chili powder, cocoa powder, cayenne, paprika, sea salt and stir well.
Finally, add the refried beans to thicken the soup and the spinach until the leaves soften.
Additional topping suggestions: guacamole or sliced avocado, chives, nutritional yeast, or another sprinkle of cocoa powder.
Enjoy warm with some sprouted tortilla chips. :)
Did you know that February is National Heart Month? Here are the top 8 superfoods, selected by nicobella intern and nutritionist Rebecca Van der Sluis, to better your heart health!
Oatmeal-High in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol in the body.
Berries-Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are all high in antioxidants, which help decrease blood pressure and fight LDL "bad" cholesterol.
Walnuts-Walnuts are high in monounsaturated fats, which work to reduce the LDL cholesterol and increases the HDL “good” cholesterol. Walnuts are also high in Omega 3’s which are beneficial for heart health.
Legumes-Legumes are high in soluble fiber which helps reduce the bad cholesterol in your body and increase the good cholesterol. Black beans are also highest in antioxidants!
Olive Oil-High in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats, this oil is an ideal pick for a heart healthy diet.
Dark Chocolate-Chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa has been shown to reduce nonfatal heart attacks and strokes in a 2012 study. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure through its flavonoids and theobromine.
Avocados-Who doesn’t love some Guacamole? Knowing that it was made with avocados which are high in monounsaturated fats and beneficial to your health just makes it even better.
Citrus Fruits-Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C which has been linked to lower risk of heart disease. Plus the high fiber content helps to reduce LDL cholesterol.
Eating whole plant-based foods is the best prevention of heart disease and long term health. Plants are power-packed with so many phytonutrients (many we are still discovering today through research). Make sure to include lots of colorful plant-based foods with each meal and choose organic whenever possible!
Written by Rebecca Vander Sluis, nicobella dietetitian-to-be