Coconut: Beautiful Inside and Out

It’s finally Wednesday!

Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite parts of my yeast-free diet: Coconut.

Coconut is the key ingredient in a variety of products, both for cooking and beauty, and it is a must when it comes to healthy living!

Coconut Nutrition

Coconut Overview:

Even though it is called a coconut, it is actually a fruit. Made up of three layers, one coconut can produce meat, water, juice, milk, or oil—basically every food group that makes up a healthy diet. For this reason, it’s no wonder that the coconut is a staple in over 1/3 of the entire world’s population.

Coconut Products:

Coconut is used to make thousands of baking and beauty products. It is sweet, hydrating, and incredibly good for you, no matter where it’s used. These are some of the products that come directly out of a coconut:

  • Coconut oil: unique from any other oil or fat because it protects against heart disease
  • Coconut meat: fresh or dried flakes are commonly used in cooking
  • Coconut milk: naturally lactose free, and can be substituted for milk in any recipe
  • Coconut flour: replaces regular flour as a lower calorie option
  • Coconut water: natural source of sugar, fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes

Coconut Benefits:

Coconut is most commonly known for its medical uses. It is great for strengthening a person’s immune system, as well as upping a person’s metabolism. When applied to the skin, it is known to treat a variety of skin diseases like eczema or acne. It is also a great tool for strengthening and promoting hair growth.

When consumed, coconut is one of the healthiest items a body can digest. It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, plus tons of fiber. Coconut oils promote weight loss, and coconut water is often used as a sports drink because of its high amounts of electrolytes.

In either case, I absolutely recommend adding Coconut into your health regimen! Check out this coconut crusted chicken recipe for a great and easy coconut filled meal!

Well, that’s all I have for you guys! Stay joyful!

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Dark Chocolate: It’s food, not candy.

Forget what you have heard and listen to this. 

With a few guidelines and helpful information, you can rely on chocolate to provide health benefits for your heart, your blood sugar, and your mood.

Milk, fat, and sugar might be welcomed by your tastebuds, but not your health. Watch out for milk chocolate, for it contains more milk and sugar than chocolate. Chose dark chocolate that contains over 62% cacao, less than . This label means that 62% of its ingredients is cacao; the higher the better! Most trusted brands, like Ghirardelli Intense Dark , Lindt, Green & Blacks, or my personal favorite Eating Evolved. Visit the link and browse their wide range of all natural, dairy free, no sugar added delicious products.

Good for your heart.

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, compounds that act as antioxidants. Flavonoids protect cells from harmful cell damage that can lead to heart disease. These molecules—called free radicals—that are produced when the body breaks down food or is exposed to sunlight or smoke. Flavonoids can also lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol by up to 10 percent.

Can help level your blood sugar.

Dark chocolate helps keep your blood vessels healthy by keeping circulation unimpaired. The flavonoids in dark chocolate also help reduce insulin resistance by helping your cells to function normally and regain the ability to use your body’s insulin efficiently. Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.

Eat chocolate and get happy.

Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that bring on feelings of happiness. Phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love, encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier. It also contains the chemical serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.

Don’t forget these benefits as well:

Along with antioxidants, dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals that can support your health. Dark chocolate contains some of the following vitamins and minerals in high concentrations:

  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Iron

The copper and potassium in dark chocolate help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments. The iron in chocolate protects against iron deficiency anemia, and the magnesium in chocolate helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

 Add one serving of dark chocolate to your daily routine and you can be on your way to obtaining these health benefits!

Hey Y’all!

Happy Friday! This is Rae Ann and today I am blessing you with a delicious recipe for when you’re really just craving a candy bar.

One of my biggest hobbies happens to be baking and so when I started to adapt to this lifestyle of eating better and eliminating certain substances, I had to find a way to replace them or exchange them for something else. I think a common misconception is that when you are eating healthy and when you get rid of gluten or dairy, that means that you can never have normal food again or you can’t just bake whatever you want and have it taste good. WELL, that is so far from the truth I can’t help but laugh. I bake all the time with the help of my gluten free flours and different substitutes that I told you about in my previous post, “What’s on your shopping list?” That being said, here is a recipe I feel is completely appropriate for the theme of this blog.

                                                                   Gluten and Dairy Free Almond Joys!   

Takes about 10 minutes to make- serves 6

Ingredients:       

  • 16-20 oz of dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup dry unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Raw Almonds
  • 1/2 Stevia packet (optional if you want it a little sweeter)

Directions:  

  1. Line a cupcake pan
  2. Melt the dark chocolate. I prefer to work with the microwave over a double boiler but it is your own preference. I chose to use increments of 1 minute followed by 30 seconds at a time. Don’t burn your chocolate!
  3. Place about a teaspoon of chocolate in each liner. Using a spoon, spread it around to the edges. I’m heavy handed so I always accidentally do about a tablespoon, I JUST LIKE CHOCOLATE.
  4. Place the cups in the fridge to set up.
  5. In a smaller bowl, mix together your coconut oil (melted), coconut flakes, and Stevia.
  6. Add about a tablespoon of the coconut mixture to the center of the chocolate cups. If it all possible, make it more centered and ball-ish.
  7. Place your almond on top!
  8. Add another tablespoon of chocolate on top of the coconut mixture, make sure it gets down on the sides and fills the open spaces.
  9. Let this all harden in the fridge for about 10.
  10. Enjoy!

I got this amazing recipe from an adorable mommy blog-  “Smashed Peas and Carrots” and then changed it up a bit.

All of the ingredients are so natural and not processed that it is incredibly hard to regret eating them. I just think it is so important that people learning to follow this lifestyle realize that it is not a death sentence, it isn’t a punishment that you’re going to have to deal with every day. Yes, you will have to make changes and sometimes you are just really going to want pizza and won’t be able to call Papa Johns just because you want to. BUT you can go to the local grocery store and pick up a gluten free pizza crust and get some natural ingredients to put on it. This is about adapting, exchanging and growing.

I hope you guys get to try this awesome recipe soon!

With Gluten and Dairy Free love,

Rae Ann       

* I am having some technical difficulties with the images, I’ll get them up ASAP!

Behind The Scenes Health Benefits

Hey hey! It’s Peyton again, so it must be Wednesday!

Now, if you’re like me, then some aspects of the health world are completely foreign to you. Things such as antioxidants, fiber, and protein—you know they are important, but you don’t know why that is.

Well today, I’m here to tell you why!

First up, Antioxidants!

As oxygen interacts with the cells of your body, they change, die, and are naturally replaced. However, sometimes cells are damaged and they become harmful to the body, causing a variety of health problems such as Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or even Parkinson’s disease.

This is where Antioxidants come in!

Antioxidants work to stop the damaged cells’ chain reactions that lead to disease. Vitamins C, E, and A are common Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, as well as Dark Chocolate and Almonds! So eat up, and know you’re helping your body with every bite!

Next—Fiber!

Fiber is a carbohydrate, but unlike other carbs, your body doesn’t break it down into sugar. Instead, it passes through the body undigested, helping to regulate its use of sugars, keep your blood sugar normal, and your hunger levels down. It also lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even…. constipation. Yikes.

Most adults need 20-30 grams of fiber a day, and they are most commonly found in vegetables, fruits, and beans! So herbivore it up, and your body will thank you for it!

Last, but not least, Protein!

Protein within our consumed foods is digested, becoming amino acids that replace the natural proteins of our bodies. It is essential in the body’s natural repair and maintenance functions. 8 grams per 20 pounds of body weight is the recommended amount of protein per day!

Meats are the easiest way to get the most protein, but fish is also a great source due to its high amounts of protein, but low amounts of fat. However, protein is also found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts—especially almonds!

Well guys, that’s all I have for you! Remember to get your daily dose of fiber, protein, and antioxidants today!

Almond Joy : Not So Joyful

Hershey Almond Joy

Almond Joy Nutrition Information

Almond Joy Nutrition Information

INGREDIENTS:

CORN SYRUP; MILK CHOCOLATE ( SUGAR; COCOA BUTTER; CHOCOLATE; MILK; LACTOSE; MILK FAT; NONFAT MILK; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER) ; COCONUT; SUGAR; ALMONDS (ROASTED IN COCOA BUTTER AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL) ; CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL); WHEY (MILK); COCOA; SALT; NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR ; CHOCOLATE; SOY LECITHIN; HYDROLYZED MILK PROTEIN; SODIUM METABISULFITE, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS; SULFUR DIOXIDE, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS; CARAMEL COLOR

All of these bold ingredients should be a red flag warning that your body will not like decompressing and digesting through all of these processed ingredients. The reason manufacturing companies use products that require processing is to make distribution easier to create a better tasting, longer lasting, more durable product. Even if it is a candy bar, many of these ingredients have a purpose of preserving taste, form, and holding against packaging, shipping and distributing. Also, when involving chocolate, ingredients like soy lecithin, PGPR, emulsifier, more soy lecithin, and sodium metabisulfite, are used to create a smooth, non-plastic, chocolate that wont melt easily.

I will define the contents in bold. Most of these aren’t easily pronounced, let alone comprehended.

Corn syrup is a food syrup, which is made from the starch of corn and contains varying amounts of maltose and higher oligosaccharides, depending on the grade. Corn syrup is used in foods to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar, and enhance flavor

Sugar is the generalized name for sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrates

Milkfat (also known as butterfat)  is the fatty portion of milk

Soy lecithin group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues composed of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipid

PGPR emulsifier made in a three step process from glycerol and fatty acids, respectively. PGPR reduces the viscosity of chocolate and similar coatings and compounds. It works by decreasing the friction between the particles of cacao, sugar, milk,

Sodium Metabisulphite The substance is sometimes referred to as disodium. It is used as a disinfectant, antioxidant and preservative agent

Sulfur Dioxide a colorless pungent toxic gas formed by burning sulfur in air. It is used in foods to preserve them.

All of these ingredients may be disheartening now that you are aware of what they are. It may not move you to never eat a candy bar again, but it may make you think twice about what you are putting into your body. . Although almost–but not all– every Hershey product is labeled as Gluten Free, it doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice.

Always read labels and use your discernment when making your food choices! Your body will thank you.

What’s on your shopping list?

Hey y’all!

This is Rae Ann and today I am going to be telling y’all about some alternatives that you can use in your every day diet to help supplement those certain foods that you’ve developed an allergy to.

The whole focus of this blog is based off of almonds, coconut and dark chocolate; these are some of the staple items for people with gluten intolerances, paleo lifestyles and people just looking to trade junk for something healthy AND delicious.

Here’s a brief list of certain must haves for your pantry, here is an extended list for the paleo lifestyle:

  • Coconut Oil- this can be used for just about anything. You can use it as hair masks, skin moisturizer, sweetener for smoothies, butter alternative in baking and so much more! It’s amazing on popcorn and in chocolate chip cookies!
  • Agave Nectar- with the exception of Stevia, this is the best sugar/honey substitute I’ve found. It’s sweeter than sugar but is much healthier. It comes straight from a plant so it’s almost always all natural, typically organic and definitely vegan.
  • Coconut flour/Almond meal- some sort of flour substitute. These are both amazing alternatives. My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill. This brand is carried just about anywhere which is awesome and depending on what you buy, it is probably Gluten Free.
  • Dark Chocolate- Just because you’re eating better doesn’t mean you have to give up the sweets! There are tons of recipes that can work with complicated diets and using dark chocolate makes the recipe significantly better for you. Enjoy life is the best kind of chocolate if you’ve got a finicky stomach.
  • Almonds- Though I personally cannot eat almonds, they are very good for you! A great source of protein almonds are an awesome snack and filler for when you don’t have time to stop and eat. HEB has a great “healthy living” department that offers all sorts of different types of almonds. Almond Butter is also really great. Most grocery stores offer it freshly ground.

It’s so important to stock your pantry with these alternatives to make transitioning to this lifestyle easier. I was blessed with blogs to help break down what I could and couldn’t eat so I hope this list makes your first trip to the grocery store a breeze!

Happy Wednesday– Peyton here!!

As I mentioned in my previous post, before my yeast-free lifestyle change I was all about all things bad for me. I literally ate myself sick on a daily basis, not only in the amount of food, but the type as well. . .and my body was paying the price. 

A processed food is any food that has been altered from its natural state, often high in trans-fats, saturated fats, sugar and sodium.

With that being said, let’s talk about some of the problems surrounding these products.

1. One word: Sugar

Processed foods contain an overload of sugar. These are sometimes hidden sugars (High Fructose Corn Syrup or “-ose” chemicals) that cut down your metabolism and boosts your empty calorie intake. Yet they always make an unwanted appearance on your waistline.

2. The Periodic Table 

Okay, not exactly, but no one looks to ingest the chemicals listed on the scientific table now do they? However, this is exactly what happens in processed foods. Food additives like antibiotics, flavors, binders, and preservatives are just a few not-so-great ingredients. One in particular to be watchful for is MSG, which can eventually lead to a smattering of health problems.

3. Trans-fats: they’ll make you fat.

Not all fats are created equal. In fact, you need fat to burn fat, weird right? But with that being said, trans-fats (aka hydrogenated fats) are a big no-no. Your body notices that they are chemically produced, and they have also been linked to all kinds of cancers and heart problems. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

These are just a few of the more disastrous elements of Processed foods, but there are many, many more. 

To avoid, just remember these three tips:

1. Stay fresh– look for fresh produce in the grocery stores.

2. Stay outside– think outside isles. Healthier foods are located around the border of grocery stores.

3. Stay alert– read, read, read! Ingredients are listed on the labels, but don’t be fooled by long names.

Alright guys, that’s all I have for you! Try making an effort to avoid Processed foods this week– it will bring you joy, I promise!

All about Rae Ann!

Hey Y’all, I’m Rae Ann!

Welcome to Almond Joys! My job with this blog is to tell you guys all about my journey of discovering my allergies to Gluten, Dairy and Nuts, how I’m coping with them and still maintaining my youth!

I grew up like a normal child, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and thought nothing of it. My senior year in high school I started to realize that certain foods made me feel a little rough afterward but didn’t pay much attention. Fast forward to the end of my freshman year/beginning of sophomore, I had determined that my body could not digest lactose. Now that I’m in my junior year of college, I am still discovering different allergies that are developing, and I will probably continue to discover or even grow out of over time. Currently, my big three weaknesses are Gluten, Dairy and Nuts!

Recognizing that my body hates Gluten:

About 4 months ago I found myself constantly fighting the urge to sleep. I was always exhausted, whether I got a solid 8 hours of sleep or not I was looking for opportunities to nap through out the day. I blamed it on being a 21 year old in college trying to maintain a social life, school and working. I also noticed that I was constantly irritable, let me tell you, I was a DIVA. I stayed sick constantly, I am a regular at the local walk in clinic, seriously, I’m not joking. Well, after visiting my parents and scaring my mother to death by going to bed at 8:00 PM and sleeping until 11:00 AM, we decided it may be time to check some things out. Thus I give you: the Gluten Free Diva that I am.

Living my Life, Doing my Thing:

After learning about the different allergies that I’ve developed I spent a TON of time doing my research. Two of my favorite blogs are:

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/

A guide to all things Gluten Free, living life and recipes galore!

&

http://www.theceliacdiva.com/

This site truly helped me understand what my body was going through, how to feel and how to make it work.

I also spent a significant amount of time wandering around different grocery stores in Abilene, where I go to school. I have found that the smaller stores do a much better job of catering to allergies. HEB has gone through a placed labels on every single shelf tag letting you know a variety of different things (sugar free, gluten free, low carb, etc). Personally, my favorite store in Abilene is Drug Emporium. They have dedicated the entire right half of the store to people who are leading a gluten free lifestyle. They have just about everything you could every imagine. I thought that it was going to be impossible to find a granola bar that was gluten free, nut free and dairy free but FEAR NOT, Drug Emporium has saved the day and my pantry is fully stocked. I was also pleasantly surprised that my grocery bill stayed around the same cost as before.

One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that allergies can develop over time. Growing up, I was never phased by sitting down and eating a grilled cheese for dinner. If I were to do that now, I might as well just dedicate my weekend to a bottle of Pepto, my couch and the bathroom. Most people also don’t realize that certain allergies have certain effects. Clearly the dairy allergy reacts with my stomach, this is extremely common- Lactose Intolerance. Only 40% of people maintain the ability to digest lactose after their childhood. My gluten intolerance, however, messes more with my body and immune system as a whole. Because of the different reactions, I think that a lot of people don’t acknowledge certain intolerances that they might have, chocking it up to heartburn, growing pains, etc. It is so incredibly important that you make it a point to not just brush off not feeling well. Yes, bodies are weird and sometimes feel odd for no apparent reason but if your stomach makes a habit of feeling like it might explode pretty regularly, you might have it checked out.

With that being said,

My point in all of this is that learning you’ve obtained a new allergy, is just that, it is learning something. This has been an amazing learning experience, an adventure. It is incredibly hard to describe in one post everything that I have learned over the past few months. I hope that you continue to check back and share in my adventure!

With GF, DF, and NF Lovin,

Rae Ann

7 Layer Bars

Right out of my favorite cookbook Against All Grain, these 7 layer bars are a hit!

All the labor has a satisfying payoff. Each layer requires separate preparation, but all parts come together to create one amazing treat!

PREP TIME: 60 mins  COOK TIME: 45 mins TOTAL TIME: 105 mins

Makes 1 dozen bars

Recipe:

Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup honey
1-1/2 tablespoon palm shortening or ghee
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Crust:
1∕3 cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut flour
1⁄4 cup almond flour
1⁄4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch sea salt

Ganache:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon coconut milk
3 tablespoons honey

Coconut Cream:
3 tablespoons coconut butter
6 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey

Toppings:
1⁄2 cup chopped walnuts
1⁄4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1⁄4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Make the caramel sauce. Bring the honey to a low boil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even browning and a dark amber color. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the palm shortening, coconut milk, and salt. Return to heat and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Do not under cook, carmel will be too runny.
  2. Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the crust ingredients in a bowl and mix until a dough forms. Press the dough into an 8-by-8-inch ovenproof dish. Bake for 10 minutes. remove and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  3. Make the ganache. Melt the chocolate slowly over a double broiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. stir in the milk and honey. spread the chocolate mixture over the crust.
  4. Drizzle cooled caramel sauce over the chocolate layer. sprinkle chopped walnuts over the chocolate layer.
  5. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over the chocolate layer.
  6. Make the coconut cream. Place the coconut cream ingredients in a small bowl, whisk, and then drizzle over the walnuts.
  7. Sprinkle shredded coconut over the cream layer.
  8. Finish with a layer of chocolate chips.
  9. Place the bars in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for 1 hour to set. cut into 12 even bars.

Finding Joy in Yeast-Free Living

Hey guys! I’m Peyton, and I’ll be bringing you the yeast-free portion of our blog!

As an athletics enthusiast, you would think that maintaining a healthy lifestyle has always been one of my top priorities. However, three years ago, I was a thirty-pounds overweight college freshman with non-existent ideas about health and nutrition. Hypothyroidism sent my body through a rollercoaster of weight gains, while a milk allergy left me bedridden for days at a time. Yet it wasn’t until the end of my first semester of college that I experienced a self-awakening.

In December 2010, my mom introduced me to yeast-free living after visiting The Hotze Clinic, and on Christmas day, my mom and I began the six-week, yeast-free challenge that would change my life.

At first, yeast-free meant giving up every food that I had ever enjoyed. My previous diet staples (sugar, bread, corn, and dairy) were all cut from my diet in the course of a day. The first three days of the program were a blur, containing cravings, hunger pains, and moodiness that only come from an extreme body detox. However, my mom and I persevered and we were rewarded at our weigh-in three weeks later, which stated we had both lost fifteen pounds. From then on, there was no looking back.

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