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How to eat chocolate more mindfully and savour every moment

Chocolate and Love, whose award-winning dark chocolate is organic, Fairtrade and ethically produced, shares its tips for achieving the ultimate chocolate tasting experience

Place a piece of chocolate in the middle of your tongue and allow it to melt slowly. Coat your whole mouth with chocolate so all your taste buds are activated.

If you chew, less flavours will be released. Look for fruitiness, acidity, sweetness or bitterness. Note how the flavour can change during the seconds you’re tasting. There’s a distinct beginning, middle and end. Like a little flavour journey, with different notes emerging at each phase. The texture should be smooth and velvety, not gritty. Fine chocolate has a long and pleasant aftertaste.

6 Vegan Bars

There are more than 400 different natural flavour notes in chocolate which become infused in the cacao bean. What do you taste?

Here are some examples:

FRUIT red berries, black berries, banana, passion fruit, raisin
FLOWER rose, jasmine, orange flower
SPICES pepper, licorice, cinnamon, vanilla
ROASTED tobacco, tea, cocoa, roasted nuts, caramel
NUT fresh nuts
DRY wood, soil, leather, hay
OTHER milk, mushrooms, olive, bread, honey

Remember to cleanse your palate with water between tasting different chocolate.

For more chocolate tasting and storage tips, visit Chocolate and Love.

Health

The weirdest – and most unnatural – beauty trends of the last decade

From ear makeup and half-shaved heads to nose hair extensions and vampire facials, the strangest – and most infamous – beauty trends of the last decade have been revealed

The hair and beauty buffs at Hairtrade.com have compiled a list of the strangest trends to have swept the nation since 2008.

These are the trends that hit the headlines for being super bold and creative, and only the most confident beauty enthusiasts could pull them off. Here are their top 15:

1) Nose hair extensions

This involves cutting up false eyelashes and sticking them around the inside of each nostril and is possibly the weirdest beauty trend to be born from the internet to date.

2) Nude eyelashes

Beauty aficionados across the globe opted to ditch the traditional black mascara when this trend hit, instead opting for a pink-hued makeup look and intentional nude-coloured lashes created by using liquid lip colours.

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3) Ear makeup

An area of our faces previously overlooked by makeup geeks made a high fashion comeback in 2016 when Louis Vuitton painted models’ ears for the SS17 shows.

4) Glitter roots

Glitter roots have become the “must-have” fad during festival season, but it’s not really appropriate for a day in the office. Not to mention it’s extremely messy!

5) Using household items to apply makeup

Kitchen utensils, bra padding, and Christian Louboutin shoes were all used to apply peoples’ make up – but it screams “impractical” and “unnecessary”.

6) Kylie Jenner lip challenge

Before Kylie admitted to getting lip fillers, fans attempted to recreate her statement pout with DIY-style suction cups – with dreadful results. 

7) Zig-zag hair partings

Jagged hair partings were the ultimate choice for girls wanting to keep it casual yet still make a statement, but unless it’s done with precision and expertise, you could end up looking slightly dishevelled and unkempt.

8) Skinny brows

A long time ago in an alternate world to the one we now live in, tweezing almost everything away until there were just thin lines above your eyes was the done thing.

9) Dyed armpit hair

Feminists took the body positive movement a step further by growing out their armpit hair and dying it neon colours.

10) Eyebrow wigs

Human hair and synthetic eyebrow wigs are a great solution for ladies wanting a more defined brow shape, but with the number of eyebrow products on the market now, they do seem a little bit over-the-top and redundant.

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11) Faux freckles

Cosmetic companies have even been making “freckle pencils” and “freckle tattoos” in response to this odd trend that is supposed to celebrate natural beauty, but rainbow freckles and metallic freckles have even become a thing too!

12) Vampire facial

Otherwise known as PRP (platelet-rich plasma) facials, this contentious procedure was put under the microscope when Kim Kardashian West tried it out during an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. It essentially involves taking the blood from a patient, processing it in a centrifuge to extract the plasma – which contains platelets and growth factors – and then re-injecting it into the face… weird!

13) Reverse manicure

Painting your nails has been a ‘thing’ for decades, but had you ever considered painting the underside of the ends of your nails too before this trend hit?

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14) Half-shaved head

Celebs such as Rihanna, Natalie Dormer and Avril Lavigne took hair styling to the next level when they donned a half-shaved look – a look that only the most confident, stylish and edgy personalities could ever pull off.

15) Vajazzle

Glamorising your nether region isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it was certainly a hot topic of conversation for a few months.

Health

Want to beat bad breath? Increase your ginger intake!

Nutritionist Alix Woods shares five health-boosting benefits of ginger 

New research has found that ginger stimulates an enzyme contained in saliva which can break down foul-smelling substances. But that’s not all that’s great about ginger. This ‘superfood’ is associated with a number of health benefits – from promoting fresh breath to better after-taste qualities and much more.

Here are five reasons to include more ginger in your diet: 

  1. Anti-nausea support – ginger has long been known to support various digestive symptoms, such as nausea, indigestion and bloating. Studies report that the root eases morning sickness in pregnancy and helps to relieve nausea in general.
  2. Pain relief – ginger has anti-inflammatory properties from ‘gingerols’, the active antioxidants which have been found to reduce arthritic, joint and muscular pain.
  3. Support weight loss – ginger has the ability to burn fat, triggering thermogensis which might be helpful if you’d like to shed a few pounds.
  4. Balance blood sugar – ginger helps regulate insulin and the breakdown of carbohydrates (glucose) and fats, which can help to maintain blood sugar and energy.
  5. Lower cholesterol – studies have shown that by taking 3g of ginger powder daily, LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced.

Easy ways to consume more ginger 

One of the easiest ways to increase your ginger intake immediately is to take a supplement. Here are two which are relatively new to the market: sense_joint_bone_150-800x800

Sense for Joint & Bone 

As well as ginger, this formula contains numerous superfoods, such as rosehips and bananas, which are both said to help prevent joint damage and inflammation. It also contains turmericto help bone healing and formation and offer protection from joint and bone-related disorders.

Liquid Health Digestive Care

liquid healthThis unique combination of ginger, bladderwrack, aloe vera and marine collagen (alongside other powerful ingredients) has been designed to help support the body’s defence and immune systems – and could prevent you from catching that winter cold! Liquid supplements are highly concentrated and often contain more ingredients than if you were to take lots of different pills. The liquid form is easier and quicker to absorb too.

 

 

 

In Season

Everything you never knew about beetroot – the most intense of vegetables

In Season: The Beetroot (Beta Vulgaris)

Resident blogger Megan Mclean reflects on beetroot’s magical history 

The beetroot, or “beet” as it’s commonly referred to, is actually comprised of two different sections: the taproot which is the main body of the vegetable, and the beet greens which are the colourful leaves shooting out of the top of the taproot.

Both parts of beetroot are edible and offer healing properties when consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet.

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For a vegetable of such magnificent ruby red, it’s only fitting that the beetroot has a somewhat magical history. According to ancient Assyrian texts, beetroots were farmed and consumed in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – in 800BC.

The Greeks were also fond of this earthy-flavoured vegetable – even if they did only eat the beet greens. The taproot section wasn’t wasted, however, as it was offered as a gift to the sun god, Apollo; used as a medicinal substance to heal wounds, and even as a laxative.

At this point in time, the beetroot is thought to have been more of a carrot-like shape, the rounded root evolving only after thousands of years of production. Other less whimsical sources state that the beetroot evolved from the wild seabeet off the coasts of India and Britain. These days you can find this love-hate vegetable very easily all over the world, especially in Europe, Scandinavia and Russia.

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For those who haven’t yet braved the bold flavours of the beetroot, what does the beet actually taste like? Well, taste varies enormously depending on preparation and cooking method, but the general consensus is that beets have a somewhat earthy or muddy taste about them.

It’s important to point out that this taste isn’t due to actual soil and the flavour will remain as strong as ever however hard you scrub at the surface. This taste is because of an organic compound within the beetroot called geosmin. There are two theories relating to geosmin: 1 – this compound is a by-product of beetroot metabolism, or 2 – it’s synthesised by micro-organisms within the soil, then taken up into the growing beet.

Either way, if the earthy taste and farm-like smell aren’t your cup of tea, try to avoid the peel as this contains six times more geosmin than the beet itself.

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What colour are beetroots? Most answers will be somewhere in the ball park of ruby red, perhaps a purple here and there. But, believe it or not, this blanket opinion isn’t true. There’s a whole secret world of varieties out there that UK supermarkets haven’t yet exposed us to. Here are some examples…

The Golden Beet – not quite as sweet as red beets but sometimes favoured because of their weaker, earthy taste and sunny appearance.

The Chioggia Beet – or ‘The Candy Cane Beet’ if we are going by appearance. Slicing into this beetroot reveals beautiful natural stripes inside with orange, yellow or red-white.

The Cylindra Beet – a red-pink colored variety that contains very little fibre, but with a surprisingly sweet taste, comparable to caramel.

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The Chioggia or Candy Cane Beet

So far, the beetroot is ticking boxes for both appearance and taste, so let’s look at the health benefits next:

Eye health

Beets contain high levels of biologically active compounds called phytochemicals which, in general, have strong evidence supporting their ability to help prevent disease. Eye-related diseases and their prevention using phytochemicals is one area of research that has shown promising results. It has been found that consuming a diet high in phytochemicals can prevent the progression of glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two phytochemicals of particular interest which can be found in abundance in beet greens, just 1 cup (340g) contains approximately 275g of lutein.

But the majority of the population are not consuming enough of these phytochemicals, despite the fact that benefits have been seen from taking just 10mg of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin a day and, with no upper toxicity level for either phytochemical, an occasional cup of beet greens will give you a spectacular health kick.

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Lowers risk of heart disease

Beets are a fantastic source of anti-inflammatory compounds that work by lowering the bodies level of homocysteine, an amino acid which can cause inflammation that damages our blood vessels and arteries. In particular folate, betaine, isobtanin and vulgaxanthin stand out as having excellent anti-inflammatories properties which could help prevent heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.

Improved blood flow   

The production of nitric oxide within our bodies may sound daunting at first, however research shows it has extensive health benefits, and lucky for us its production is triggered every single time you consume a beetroot.

Nitrates within the vegetable are converted to nitric oxide, which itself is a neurotransmitter with the ability to expand blood vessels and thus lower blood pressure.

Nitric oxide has a positive effect on our hearts not just from this drop-in blood pressure, but also from the increased blood flow through expanded blood vessels, potentially reducing the symptoms of clogged arteries, chest pain, angina and coronary heart disease.

Adding to this ever-lasting ode to nitic oxide is the fact that blood flow will not only be increased to the heart, but also to our brains. Studies carried out on older adults investigated the effects of a high-nitrate diet on mental functioning and concluded that there was increased flow of blood to the frontal lobes, meaning that incorporating high nitrate foods (including beets) in a diet may reduce the risk of dementia.

A word of caution 

But before you go jazzing up every salad with sliced Chioggia beet or drinking 500mls of beetroot juice on the way to bed every night, it must be advised that you should remain calm after visiting the toilet the next day.

Discoloured urine and stools are an unnegotiable side effect after eating any decent quantity of beetroot and are nothing to worry about at all!

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To add to the beetroot’s perfect track record of appearance, taste and health benefits, it’s also immensely versatile and can be eaten raw, cooked, pickled, juiced or as the main ingredient in the Eastern European soup – Borscht.

If boiling your beetroot, it is best to leave the peel on to prevent the loss of nutrients into the cooking water, once boiled the skins should fall away easily and the root can be sliced, pureed or diced. The highly nutritious beet greens can make a wonderful change from spinach when wilted down and eaten as a side.

Here are just a few ideas on how to incorporate beets into your meals and snacks –

  • Stir fried beet with roasted garlic and sesame oil
  • Wrap beets in tin foil and roast over heat (perfect for cooking on the campfire!)
  • Honey roasted beetroot and carrots
  • Beetroot brownies
  • Beetroot & mint hummus

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This information is all well and good for fresh beetroots pulled straight from the soil and unaltered until reaching our kitchens, but what about pickled beetroot?

Beetroots often don’t stay ripe for long which makes pickling an attractive preservation method for the vegetables shelf life and also many of its health benefits. Pickled beetroots are high in potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, fibre and are low in fat. Sodium intake must be kept in mind if eating this form of beetroot often, one cup (340g) of pickled beetroot contains more than one third of the recommended daily sodium intake.

So that’s that, a truly magical vegetable with not only the powers to wow a dinner table of guests, but also with the ability to heal the body while enhancing life, without a doubt a food fit for the seven wonders of the world.

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious,” – Tom Robbins, author 

For more healthy food inspiration from Megan, check out Oats & Ends.

 

Health

Warning: ‘Gluten-free’ products might not be what you think

Gluten pioneer Dr Kenneth Davin Fine says food labelled ‘gluten-free’ isn’t always what you think

Think you’re following a gluten-free diet? Not so fast.

A physician who is said to be a pioneer in discovering and diagnosing the problems with gluten says many products touted as gluten-free today are not.

Dr. Kenneth Davin Fine, who is a gastroenterologist and creator of Oro-Intestinal Fitness Products, as well as gluten and food sensitivity diagnostic laboratory EnteroLab is said to have brought gluten sensitivity to the public consciousness more than 20 years ago.

He says that during those early years, gluten-sensitive patients usually experienced significant improvement in their health on a “gluten-free diet” but his patients have told him in recent years they have seen fewer improvements.

“Products can now be labeled ‘gluten free’ even if that food contains up to 20 parts per million of gluten,” he says.

“While that doesn’t sound like a lot, a little gluten can go a long way in the reactions of the most active immune systems.”

Dr Fine says gluten is a protein found in the cereal grains wheat, barley, rye, and oats and is a mixture of proteins which causes illness in people with either celiac disease, (when the immune reactions to gluten damage the intestinal tissues visible on a biopsy), or (more commonly) non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is diagnosed when symptoms and intestinal dysfunction are present in the absence of such changes on a biopsy.

Recent studies found that most (but not all) celiacs could eat gluten without resulting in damage to their small intestine. But, in his research, Dr. Fine has found that only about half of celiacs or non-celiac gluten sensitive patients can tolerate oats. He says “gluten-free oats” is a misnomer and may be responsible for symptoms experienced by people who think they are eating a gluten-free diet.

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Dr. Fine believes the gluten sensitivity epidemic is caused by:

  • A combination of greater immunoreactivity in most people stimulated by mainly environmental factors (stress, exposure to hormones in food, medicines, pollution, and possibly EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) from electronic devices).
  • The way many foods have been altered by producers so they can be manufactured in mass quantities more efficiently.
  • Widespread use of stomach acid-inhibiting medicines.
  • A general lack of breastfeeding from 1955-1985 (when synthetic infant formula was falsely touted to be more healthy than breast milk).
  • Public health directives recommending that the public should eat mostly grains
  • An evolution of agricultural practices leading to hybridisation of grains to increase their gluten content, and more widespread use of herbicides and pesticides.

Dr Fine says that, recently,  there also has been a significant increase in the mass marketing of products said to assist the gut microbiome in digesting food. The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, viruses, and fungi – in the body.

He claims the best way to keep a healthy gut and microbiome is to eat the right foods. “Researchers have sometimes detected a different microbiome in obese individuals compared to non-obese individuals; although this has attempted to be the blame for the obesity, it cannot be ruled out that their microbiome is different because they make different, and perhaps less healthful food choices,” he says.

According to Dr Fine, other reasons for a poor microbiome are frequent exposure to antibiotics, the bactericidal chlorine added to public water, improper sleep, stress, and diets heavy in meat, cooked food (as opposed to raw vegetables or salads and fruit), and “junk food” and other sugar-laden foods.  This is all typical of the modern lifestyle, which Fine says is a primary contributor to poor overall health.

“If you really want to achieve a healthy body, you must have a healthy intestine and intestinal flora,” says Dr Fine.

“And when it comes to immunologic food sensitivities, one must really be more restrictive of antigenic foods than was necessary years ago because of the progression of this immunologic epidemic.”