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Healthy School Breakfasts

By Lela Rabie (previously also published in Natural Medicine magazine)

School Breakfasts.

Getting oneself out of bed and nutritiously nourished before rushing off to work is quite a feat, add children to the mix and it becomes a small daily miracle! Most households are pressed for time in the morning but instead of skipping breakfast yourself so you have the time to make theirs, take a look at some of the suggestions below and prepare for easy, or at least, easier mornings.

There are a myriad of things we’d like our children to be able to do at school but at the very least we want them to become even more intelligent than they already are and in order to do so, we want them to stay awake. Thus, food to feed their brain and keep up their energy levels is what we’d be looking for in a breakfast. Below follow a few breakfast friendly suggestions:

Eggs

Eggs contain choline which is necessary for brain development, they are also a good source of protein. Serve them as a hot breakfast by poaching, scrambling or boiling them. Soft boiled eggs with rye toast fingers used to be one of my favourite breakfasts as a child. If your child is gluten intolerant try a gluten-free bread or rice cakes broken into quarters for easy dipping.

Salmon.

This isn’t really a traditional South African breakfast food but it should be! Salmon is high in omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA which are necessary for normal brain growth and function. Try adding salmon in small slivers to scrambled eggs in order to introduce children  to its taste gradually,  or serve it on a wholewheat, rye or pumpernickel toasted bagel with a smattering of real butter as an unexpected breakfast treat  for those who have already grown to love it.

Peanut butter.

Packed with nutrients, peanut butter contains good amounts of Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant (the good guys which help us develop immunity) that protects the nervous membranes. It is also a source of thiamine, which assists the brain and nervous system in converting glucose to energy. Use peanut butter to add peanut punch to smoothies or spread some on toast for those mornings when the clock has a mind of its own.

Oats.

Oats are probably one of the most versatile breakfast foods and there are few of us who don’t have at least one memory of a steaming bowl of oats for breakfast in Winter. They are a source of Vitamin E as well as providing good levels of B vitamins (the energy vitamins), potassium and zinc to help the brain and body function at an optimum level. The high fibre content in oats means that they are an excellent food for sustained energy release and so keeping childrens blood sugar levels even throughout the morning. Serve oats as porridge or make your own muesli on the weekend by mixing a few cups of oats with a variety of nuts and dried fruits, this can then be stored and eaten as cold cereal during the week. Soaking muesli overnight and eating it with yoghurt instead of milk will help with digestion. For lactose intolerant children, soya or rice milk or even apple juice, are good alternatives.

Berries.

Berries such as strawberries, blueberries and cherries contain powerful anti-oxidants and are easy to freeze, making them ideal for use in smoothies or fruit purees when fresh fruit is not available. When you are lucky enough to find fresh berries, use them with wild abandon in fruit salads, with yoghurt or as a topping for scones or mini pancakes when you have a work-from-home day and can spare the extra time in the kitchen.

Yoghurt.

Rich in protein and B vitamins, yoghurt is a great energy food. B vitamins are also essential for the growth of brain tissue so it rates in the brain food category also. Added to that, it is a good source of digestion friendly bacteria, helping our young Einsteins to remain smart and regular. Yoghurt is the perfect on-the-run food and it can be turned into a superb breakfast by mixing it with a teaspoon or two of flaxseed oil(another good source of Omega 3 essential fatty acid) and some fresh fruit.

All day energy.

In order to provide our children with more than enough energy for their day it is important that we give them foods which promote sustained energy production, rather than quick fixes which can cause blood sugar, and thus, energy, dips. One of the ways to do this is to ensure that breakfast consists of low GI foods. GI or Glycaemic index is a measurement of how quickly the sugar from a particular food enters the brain cells and other cells of the body. High GI foods such as donuts, sugary cereals, chocolate or white bread, release their sugars quickly, causing a fast rise in blood sugar levels. This may provide a feeling of ‘instant’ energy which will unfortunately disappear as soon as the sugar is used up by the body. This will then lead to a drop in blood sugar levels , causing the person to feel even more tired than before. Low GI foods such as wholegrains, whole fruits, oats and yoghurt release their sugars more slowly, giving the body a sustained sugar supply and so keeping the blood sugar at a balanced level without sudden peaks and lows.

When preparing a nutritious breakfast, another aspect to keep in mind is the protein content of different foods. Proteins provide amino acids, from which neurotransmitters are made. Neurotransmitters are biochemical messengers which carry signals from one brain cell to another. Two of these amino acids are tryptophan and tyrosine. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning our body cannot manufacture it so we need to get it from food while tyrosine can be manufactured by the body. These two amino acids influence four different neurotransmitters, namely serotonin (influenced by tryptophan) and dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine(influenced by tyrosine). The first of these, serotonin, calms the brain and its production is boosted by foods high in carbohydrates, whilst the other three, excite the brain, making it more alert. The production of these last three neurotransmitters is boosted by eating foods high in protein such as yoghurt, tuna, turkey and eggs.1 Thus, including foods with a good protein content at breakfast can help to keep children more alert and energized.

Whichever of the above foods you choose to use to create your breakfast miracles, no breakfast will be complete without the most essential magic ingredient: parental love. Add in extra large doses and enjoy the benefits of those extra special hugs!

References:

1. http://www.askdrsears.com/html/4/t040400.asp

Websites used in the writing of this article:

http://hubpages.com/hub/10-Super-Brain-Foods-For-Your-Kids

http://www.recipestoday.com/articles/vegetarian-lifestyle/energy-foods-5038/

Reducing Body acidity by using foods

By Lela Rabie

"Foods can be used to reduce acidity levels in the body.."

Different foods are either acid-forming or alkali-forming in the body, eg. lemon contains citric acid in its juice which makes it very acidic but as citric acid is an organic acid the body can metabolize it to CO2 and H2O. In the whole lemon, negative charges on the citrate ions are balanced by positively charged metal ions (potassium and calcium). Once the citric acid has been metabolized, the potassium and calcium are balanced against negative ions (eg. chloride or bicarbonate) instead of the citrate. This discourages the formation of H+ and thus has an alkaline reaction. Thus although lemon itself may be acidic, in the body it is alkali-forming.

Ideal Acid/Alkaline levels in the Body.

For maintenance of ideal acid/alkali levels in the body, one needs to take in 80% alkali forming foods and 20% acid forming foods daily. Foods which are alkali forming in the body and can help to reduce acidity levels are eg. almonds, unsweetened yoghurt, raisins, most fruit and vegetables ( do not have high concentrations of protein) and sea vegetables. Some neutral foods are eg. cream cheese, oils, rice, avocado and pumpkin seeds. Some of these neutral, swollen foods eg. rice will absorb acidity from the body and help to remove it and so reduce body acidity and complete the cleansing picture (as well as helping to give the body a good hydration picture). Some foods which are acid-forming in the body and are thus better consumed in moderation are eg. salt, sugar, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, all grains and cereals except rice, high quality animal proteins (these are rich in sulphur and phosphoproteins which give rise to sulphuric acid and phosphoric acid forming in the body) and all pulses and legumes, including peanuts. Eating the fast-growing foods and foods that are in season would also promote cleansing which in turn, will lessen body acidity.

An alkaline environment in the body.

Having an alkaline environment in the body is preferable for many reasons eg:
In an acidic body:


1. Acidification of the medium surrounding the cells causes hydrogen ions to enter the cells and minerals being lost.
2. When there is too much acid in the body the cells take up acid to "help out" the rest of the body and this causes disturbance in the cells mineral balance (H+ increased so Na+ and K+ in cell is lost, first the Na+ and then the K+).
3. Sometimes lost potassium is replaced with sodium which worsens the situation as Na+ attracts acid. ( Also not good for the hydration picture.)
4. For every 3 Potassium ions leaving the cell, 2 Sodium + Hydrogen enter the cell.
5. Excess acidity leads to demineralization of the bones thus an acidic system can lead to the softening of bones.

The natural healthy state of the body is to have an alkaline "inner" environment and an acidic "outer" environment. Outer environment refers to the inner digestive tract and to the outer skin. Healthy and "friendly" bowel flora thrive in a slightly acidic environment whereas in a more alkaline environment the "unfriendly" bowel flora dominate.
As the body constantly works towards a state of balance one will find that when the body is acidic the colon will be alkaline and vice versa.

"The reduction of body acidity influences bowel flora.."

Reducing body acidity will cause the body to become more alkaline and promote more acidic conditons in the colon, a more welcoming environment for the lactose fermenting, "friendly" bacteria. The relationship between the body (the host) and the bacteria is one of symbiosis where both benefit from keeping the other "happy". Thus reducing body acidity by various means eg. eating a more alkali-forming diet, reducing stress, being conscious of "toxic" emotions and being aware of the environment we create for ourselves will have a beneficial effect on the bowel flora as they will be provided with a slightly acidic environment in the colon, which will allow them to thrive. This will allow them to synthesize B vitamins and Vitamin K (important in blood clotting) as well as encourage complete digestion and also generate volatile fatty acids by breaking down dietary residues (especially fibre).

Our bowel flora are there to help us create and maintain a balanced state of health, creating the right environment for them to flourish in is up to us.

Healthy Recipes | Vegan Recipes

Amazing chef and my friend, Claudia Mattos from Sao Paulo in Brazil sent in some delicious recipes for Shoporganic.co.za readers to try, if you like her recipes and would like to get in touch with her, here are her details:

Chef Claudia Mattos
ZYM Café
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 11 3021 56 37.

ENJOY!

Tofupiry by Claudia

Ingredients:
100ml olive oil
50ml lemon juice (or less)
50 grams sour cassava starch
250g tofu
salt to taste
water or soy milk

How to prepare
Cover the blender blades w/ olive oil, lemon juice. Add the tofu and the cassava starch.
Blend the mixture adding soy milk as much as needed, until smooth.
Cook the mixture in a pan at low temperature, stirring until it is cream cheese like.
It can be used on bread or toast, or as pizza topping, or w/ vegetable (or regular) lasagna, or filling for vegetables, i.e. zucchini

Hint to liquefy this mixture: use vegetable stock

Yummy Yam cream cheese / ricotta by Claudia

3 raw yams, peeled and cut in small pieces
olive oil (enough to cover blender blades)
half a pink-lemon juice
salt to taste
garlic or other spices to add warmth ex: red pepperoni, ginger, (optional)

How to prepare

Pour the olive oil into the blender until it covers the blades and add the yam and lemon juice as well as the remaining ingredients. Blend the mixture until the desired texture is achieved (for less fibers, blend longer). Add salt.


Vegan vichyssoise by Claudia 

5 yams, steamed and peeled
3 cups vegetable stock
2 leeks, thinly sliced (bulb only)
1 onion, chopped
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
(other possible ingredients: 1 bay leaf / dried thyme / dried marjoram)
soy cream
nutmeg to taste
ghee

Blend the yams w/ the vegetable stock until you have a purée.
In a pan, saute the leeks and onion in ghee, until they’re brown.
Add the yam puree and blend the ingredients until you get a smooth, nice cream. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Turn off the flame and finish with soy cream.

Cheaters easy Hummous: by Lela

A ridiculously easy recipe packed full of protein and good fats, hummous is a firm favourite with my family. If you want to go the really low sodium route, boil your own chickpeas (after soaking overnight) and use Lo-salt or a salt substitute. I prefer using coarse ground himalayan salt or natural sea-salt..

Ingredients:

1 can cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
1 large organic lemon (juice thereof :-) )
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 1/2 tablespoons tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
water
salt to taste

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and add about 1/3 of a cup of water. Blend using a handheld blender, adding more water, lemon juice or salt according to your preference of taste and consistency. Once you have a smooth paste, enjoy with warmed pita breads and some olives or serve with new baby potatoes and home made mayo. Also delicious mixed with a ripe avo and used as a spread or dip.
Tastes even better the day after. Keep refrigerated.

Cheesy Beetroot by Lela

A sneaky and delicious to get kids to eat veggies:-). For those which are lactose intolerant and watching their wheat, use soya milk and buckwheat flour as replacements for the milk and flour used here. It tastes just as good with sunflower oil but olive oil is much healthier.. I like to steam the veggies..

Ingredients:

4 large beetroots, cooked and chopped into chunks
1 medium head of broccoli, cooked and broken into florets

For the sauce:

100mls olive oil (extra virgin)
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
grated cheese (mozzarella or white cheddar, even crumbled Feta)
salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Prepare the sauce by heating the olive oil, add the flour and mix till a paste is formed, remove from heat while doing this if necessary. Add the milk bit by bit till the right consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper and some of the cheese.
In an oven proof dish put the steamed veggies and cover with the cheesy sauce, sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese on top and put in the oven to melt cheese and brown the top.
Serve hot with wholewheat noodles or wheat-free noodles. Perfect winter food for the kids!

Spicy Butternut soup by Lela

A real winter warmer, this one is not for the faint-hearted! Packed full of warming ingredients, it helps to boost the immune system and keep the sniffles at bay.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut, chopped into chunks, no need to peel if organic and properly washed.
1 onion
3-6 cloves garlic (you decide:-) )
2-4 red chillies (ditto)
a small bit of grated ginger (between 1/2 tsp and 1tsp)
3 carrots chopped into chunks
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.
1 flat tablespoon curry powder.
1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey.
extra virgin olive oil.
veggie stock powder.
salt and pepper to taste.
cream.

Method:

Lightly fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil, add the butternut and carrot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until butternut is almost tender. Add chopped garlic, parsley, curry powder, chillies, honey/sugar and ginger. When butternut is soft, blend everything together using a hand held blender. Add veggie stock and salt and pepper to taste.
Leave to stand for 20 min and then slowly reheat till just warm enough to eat.
Serve with a swirl of cream and some warm rolls.
Perfect for when you feel a cold coming on or you just feel like a bit of a cleanse :-).

Granola:

Great long term energy food for breakfast and absolutely delicious with fruit juice, soya milk or yoghurt as a topping!

Ingredients

3 cups oats
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
2 pinches salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup sunflower seeds/flaked almonds/pumpkin seeds or a combination of all three.
½ cup linseeds.

Method

Melt butter and honey together with salt, add oats and mix till covered. In a separate pan, lightly toast the seeds and nuts. Mix oats, seed mix, raisins and cinnamon together and leave to cool. Serve with live yoghurt or after soaking overnight with soya milk and grated apple. (Lela recipe:-))