Recipe: Almond Milk

57147-almond-silver-bowl-medium-originalI enjoy milk. As a kid, I would drink at least a few glasses a day. There’s something about the creaminess of it that just makes me feel all warm inside. Even in the summer, when it’s hot and muggy, sometimes I just want a creamy, cold drink. The wisdom of Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old Indian holistic healing science, suggests that tasting something sweet like milk can activate the soothing pleasure responses in the brain. During a hot summer day, there may be bonus cooling and hydration properties that dampen your pitta (your dosha made of fire and water that may rise during the hot summer months, causing you to be come imbalanced which leads to agitation, dehydration, difficulty sleeping, and digestive problems.)

However, I know that it’s not the best thing for me (but in moderation it is of course). Now, when I still want the creaminess of cow’s milk (or fresh goat’s milk when I can get my hands on it), but I don’t feel like having it go bad in the fridge (a gallon in two weeks is way too much milk for me), I turn to other forms of milk. Yes, there are the hundreds of brands in the stores (soy milk, hemp milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.) but when I read those labels I notice ingredients that I really just don’t want to be putting into my body, including carrageenan and some preservatives that I just can’t pronounce.

Homemade Almond Milk Instead, I make my own almond milk and you should too. It’s super easy and really affordable! And unlike all the store bought brands, you can control exactly what goes into it including your favorite flavors. Almonds provide healthy saturated fat and are ranked the highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin than all of the other tree nuts. Eating just 1.5 ounces of almonds may reduce the risk of heart disease due to their high levels of magnesium which not only reduces bad cholesterol while preserving good cholesterol, but it also helps you regulate blood sugar.

Try out my recipe for almond milk below and I doubt you’ll ever go back. It’s the perfect way to start your day!

Homemade Almond Milk

1 cup almonds (soaked in distilled water overnight)
5 cups water
3-4 pitted dates (for natural sweetness)
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cardamon

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. You can also strain the milk with a fine mesh sieve for an even smoother finish.

The best part about this recipe is that you can customize it to your liking. If you like it sweeter, add more dates, honey, or even some maple syrup. I also like heating it up for my own steamed almond milk latte – sans the coffee.

What’s your favorite beverage during the hot summer months?

My Best Bets for a Healthy Yogurt (and Giveaway!)

Yogurt is a staple in my refrigerator and I know I’m not the only one who can’t live without it. It’s full of great bacteria for your gut, is an excellent option for a morning protein punch (or snack), and can be added to your favorite dips in lieu of not so healthy condiments.

Hundreds of Yogurt Brands
Hundreds of Yogurt Brands

Despite all of its positive traits, the industry has found a way to make the majority of yogurt found in the supermarket equivalent to eating a piece of cake. Their deceiving packaging is confusing for many who view yogurt as a simple and healthy addition to a meal or snack.

The shelves are lined with over a hundred different types of yogurt, many claiming to be non-fat, low fat, and the magic pill to a slimmer waist. It’s frustrating to see commercials that associate weight loss with eating a yogurt that tastes like key lime pie. (You know what I’m talking about!) I’m not sure if they have good intentions, but I do know that our yogurt craze is turning into an unhealthy craze.

Sugar is one of the main points of contention for yogurt lovers. Yogurt does contain naturally occurring sugars (lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in milk products while fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruit). For example, one cup of plan low-fat yogurt has about 12 grams of naturally occurring sugar. However, it’s the added sugars that you need to watch out for such as sweeteners.

Key Lime Pie Label
Key Lime Pie Yogurt

If you look at the image below you can see that one serving of the light and fat-free key lime pie yogurt has 11 grams of sugar. Obviously, a very small portion of that is natural (a serving is 6 ounces so about 6 grams). Now, if you look at the ingredient label you’ll see that the second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, which means that’s the second largest ingredient in the yogurt. Then the 9th ingredient is aspartame. (If you don’t know what aspartame is, please check this article out. Aspartame contains three different components: methanol, phenylalnine and aspartic acid, all of which have been shown to either stimulate brain cells to death, severely disrupt hormone balances in the brain or act as a dangerous nerve poison. It also accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA, which included seizures and death. And think of how many kids are eating these “fruity” yogurts everyday because it’s “good for them.”) Then there’s Yellow #5 and Blue #1, which both are chemicals derived from petroleum (yes, the stuff you put in your gas tank in your car). They have been show to have long-term health problems such as asthma, skin rashes and migraines.

So after reading what’s actually in your yogurt that tastes like something it’s not, I want to share with you the good news – you can still eat your yogurt, get all of the benefits for your gut flora and consume a lot less sugar with no artificial ingredients. All you have to do is choose the right yogurt and most importantly, always read the ingredients!

Simple and Healthy

First off, the probiotics in some yogurts balance the micro flora of your gut which can you keep you regular and maintain a balanced digestion system. Now, you’re not going to get the benefit of yogurt bacteria in those popular “low fat, low carb, lose 10 lbs. immediately by eating 15 grams of added sugar” yogurt. What I recommend is purchasing plain yogurt, either regular or Greek style, and then sweetening it with some honey or your own fruit. You’ll save on the calories and know exactly what is in your yogurt so you’re not wondering why you waistline won’t go down or why you’re experiencing migraines everyday even though you’re eating what the marketing companies have touted as “healthy yogurt.”

Here are some of my favorite brands:

Stonyfield Organic Greek Yogurt – Stonyfield is a home run for those looking to purchase organic. They pride themselves on being “obsessively organic” and offering consumers tasty, wholesome and nutritious food. This is a mainstay in my refrigerator.

navigating-the-yogurt-aisle-Siggis-plain-pg-fullSiggi’s Icelandic Style Skyr Plain Yogurt – This has become another favorite. Skyr, pronounced “sk-eer” is the traditional yogurt of Iceland that has been made for over 1,000 years. It’s rich and creamy with a high protein count; actually it’s the highest ratio of protein to sugar of other flavored yogurts. In the plain yogurt, there’s only 4 grams of sugar (all naturally occurring) and if you want to try their other flavors such as orange and ginger (one of my favorites) there’s only 9 grams of sugar, 14 grams of protein and 100 calories. On top of that, the milk is made from grass fed cows in upstate New York without the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), they use no aspartame, sucralose, gelatin, artificial colorings, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and they’re certified gluten-free. In one two words: deliciously healthy.

Fage Greek Yogurt – Simple and delicious. Fage is one of my favorite Greek yogurts; one serving has 7 grams of sugar and is all naturally occurring. No added sugars here! All you get is milk and live active yogurt cultures.

Noosa Finest Yoghurt  –  This rich and creamy Aussi style yoghurt that is made in Colorado was a surprise home run for me. It’s definitely a treat with 11.5 grams of sugars in a serving of the honey noosa, but it’s flavored with honey and organic cane sugar. Basically what you would be adding to your yoghurt at home.

Yogurt Giveaway!

In honor of my rant on yogurt, I’m giving away a Siggi’s gift package of gift certificates, coupons, and a free 40-minute health consultation to the first five people who comment below.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on yogurt!

Non-Stick Honey – Yes It Exists!

As you may know already, I’m a fan of honey. A huge fan of honey. I have over 10 different types of honey in my cabinet from organic, to spicy, to Maine blackberry and I love them all. Everytime I’m out, I have to take a look at the latest honey products, especially during farmer’s markets.

Nektar Natural Honey CrystalsI put honey in almost everything from yogurt, tea, barbecue sauce, salsa, ice cream – you name it, I’ve probably tried it with honey (ok maybe not everything – but you get my point). So when I was given the chance to try Nektar Naturals Honey Crystals™ I jumped on it. I had heard a bit about the new product from other bloggers, namely Jersey Bites, but had yet to see and try it. And it doesn’t hurt that Nektar Naturals is from a neighboring town.

Jeremy Edelman, Founder and President of Nektar Naturals based in Belmar, NJ and his associate Andrew was nice enough to send over a box for me to sample and I’m so glad he did! I wasn’t expecting the honey to be completely granulated, even though that’s the website boasted. They’re similar to the look and feel of the Raw Sugar packets, but instead of processed sugar, it’s 100% all natural grade A granulated honey! One packets equals one teaspoon of honey but without the sticky mess. I think it’s perfect when you can’t bring your jars of honey along for teas on the go – where were they years ago!

I added the honey to my tea that evening and it disolved quickly, giving my tea the same taste of honey that I would have received if I had added some of my liquid honey. The next day, I decided to make some homemade rhubarb jam, substituting a quarter of the sugar with the honey packets. The result was delicious!

Besides jam and tea, I’ve been adding Nekat’s Honey Crystals™ to homemade baked beans, greek yogurt, and even my margarita! I’m not a coffee drinker, but I would love to hear from others whether it’s tasty in coffee as well.

Not only are they convenient, but if you haven’t read my previous posts about honey then I’ll give you some reminders. Honey is low in the glycemic index (which means you get a jolt in energy without the insulin jump that you would from sugar), contains natural antioxidents, polyphenals, and electrolytes, and also contains anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-septic qualities. It’s known as a superfood because it contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and selenium.

Basically, honey should be added to your diet and if the only reason you didn’t deal with honey before was because you didn’t like getting messy, well Nektar Naturals™ has made that excuse obsolete.  To find out where you get your box of honey crystals, visit here.

And be sure to let me know what you’re doing with your honey!

Explaining M”Bee”Well with the Help of Bees

M”Bee”Well Explained

Bees, especially honeybees, are an important part of my life. I’ve always felt a connection to them.  Maybe because my name, Melissa, means honeybee in Greek or maybe it’s their hard working mentality. For every holiday, I can count on one of my loved ones to gift me with a jar of organic honey which I enjoy with hot tea, brie,and toast or even some sort of bee pendant. The name of this website, MBeeWell is a little play on words – I didn’t spell anything wrong, it was meant to contain the word “Bee” in it because to me, bees are one of the most important sectors of not only my life, but also a cornerstone to our entire food system and health.

Fruits and Vegetables are the “Bee’s Knees”

If you go way back to your Biology days in the classroom, you’ll remember that bees are pollinators and if you remember the Imagenews in 2006-2007 of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) you’ll recall how important bees are to our current agriculture system. To refresh your memory, more than 100 of our food crops such as blueberries, apples, cherries, grapefruit, avocado, squash, and onions are dependant on bees as pollinators. Bees contribute to 35% of the food we eat, that’s $15 billion worth of US produce and $215 billion worldwide! Some of the only crops that don’t need bees are grain crops that rely on the wind. If you look a little closer, most of the crops that are pollinated by bees are fruits and vegetables that contain so many compounds that have kept animals and humans alive and healthy – just like nature intended!

Bees are so important for these crops that beekeepers create colonies by “domesticating” them then bring them to farmer’s crops in order to pollinate the field. Due to the expansiveness of crops, bees no longer “naturally” live there and wild bugs and habitats have been destroyed. Bees are brought in to do what Mother Nature intended.

This act of nature where two species cooperate to benefit both is called mutualism. We need bees to pollinate our crops and bees need pollen to survive. Unfortunately, CCD has taken a major toll on bees. In 2006-2007 32% of honeybees vanished, in 2007-2008 an additional 36% disappeared in the US. Other countries are having the same problems: the UK lost 30% in 2007 and Italy lost 40-50%. Scientists have yet to find an exact cause for the disappearance of bees, but some beekeepers believe it may be a pesticide known as neonicotinoids and countries such as Italy have now banned its use.

CCD has brought the spotlight back on the importance of bees as our ancient partners in the art of growing food. Haagen-Dazs came to the aid of the honeybee when they announced that 40% of their ice cream wouldn’t exist without them, so they donated $250,000 to the cause and created a new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee (which is delicious), in their honor.

“Bee” a Supporter

Anyone can do their part in restoring bees. If you have a yard or small garden, be sure to have plenty of flowers, fruits, and vegetables for bees to “snack on.” A yard with just grass doesn’t draw any bees! Also, look for organic honey to decrease the amount of pesticide use and be sure to purchase real raw honey (about 75% of the honey sold in the US is not 100% honey). The best option is to purchase your honey from a local beekeeper (maybe me one day!)

Another Benefit of Bees – Honey Image

As I said before, I love bees, especially for their honey which has been a known superfood for centuries. It’s not just for mixing in your tea or providing that sweet taste on your muffin. Honey is loaded with polyphenols (the same group of antioxidants found in superfoods such as extra virgin olive oil) which protect cells from free radical damage. Honey also has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-septic qualities. Allergy suffers may even see a 60% reduction in symptoms! The most recent study showed that honey treats mild nightime coughs caused by upper-respiratory infections among children aged 1-5. These studies are just proving what our ancestors have known all along – honey is a food that you want to have in your cabinet!

If that wasn’t reason enough to start adding honey to your superfood arsenol, let’s see if this convinces you: raw honey is high in nutrients and enzymes that kill bacteria, it increases calcium absorption, helps athritic joints, is a natural laxative, it increases muscle restoration and glycogen after a workout, and it contains calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesisum, copper, chromium, and selenium. Honey also provides instant energy without the insulin jump of white sugar (1 tablespoon of honey is 64 calories to 15 calories of sugar) because it contains carbohydrates which easily convert to sugar and help maintain blood sugar levels.

Tip: Try honey on baked brie with raspberries and while you’re eating it be sure to thank all those hard working bees.

Still interested? Good… check this out!