I have been coming to Arizona for over 10 years, and I think I have taken my surroundings down here for granted. There is something just so pecular about the cactus. They portray most images that represent the southwest as a wild desert plant.
Everyone knows not to touch a cactus, and most would think that a cactus just has three arms and stands up tall. Yes that is true, most varieties do, but there are so many more. And what is even more amazing about these unique plants, is that they have healing properties ( like most green things in our natural world).
Cacti – represent a plant that is loaded with minerals, natural sugars, fiber and water. Once the prickly pieces are removed, a cactus is actually edible. It has a soft fleshy center that makes it a nice “meaty” dish.
Large round cactus leaves are called Nopal and sometimes they are topped with red little prickly pears. A big slab of cactus can be cooked up with some Mexican spices and served up with some brown rice! Tastes kind of like crisp asparagus or a ripe green bean. It is loaded with beta carotene, iron, B vitmains, vitamin C and calcium.
Another well known plant in this category is the Agave. Despite all of it’s recent controversial representation it is quite a remarkable plant. It takes 7 years to harvest nectar from just one fruit and will yield gallons of pure nectar. When it is done in this natural way, this is the way to enjoy the nectar. Since Agave has been in such high demand over the last few years, these natural practices have been lost and so has it’s nutrients. But nonetheless, they are still beautiful to look at and the nectar still tastes delicious (in some recipes).
Also interesting to note, is that all cacti are succulents but not all succenlents are cacti. This leads me to the wonderous, healing and amazing Aloe Vera plant which would fall into this category. It’s leaves are filled with a juicy gelly center the oozes it’s goodness into our health. It has all kinds of healing properties from soothing inflammation and burns while also being antibacterial and antifungal. You can drink it, eat it or put it directly on your skin. Having an Aloe Vera plant around your home is a great idea – they need so little attention, just a lot of sunlight!
See Aloe smoothie recipe below!
Some other fascinating plants I came across in the desert were Jojoba, Jade, Yucca and Creeping Snake Cactus, Ocotillo, Cholla and so many more!
It’s no wonder most of these desert plants are well protected with prickly pointers and tough skin – if I had all these healing abilities I would want to protect myself as best as I could! So be careful and handle your Cacti and desert plants with care!
As I mentioned earlier Aloe Vera can be taken internally, and what better way then in a smoothie. If you can’t get your hands on a fresh leaf – then getting a jug of pure 100% Aloe Vera juice is your next best option.
WILD ALOE BERRY SMOOTHIE DELIGHT
1-2 cups rice milk or hemp milk
1/4 cup pure aloe vera juice, or the inside gel of one leaf
1-2 scoops SunWarrior Protein (enter coupon code MW007 to get 5% off your order)
1 cup frozen berries
1 tbsp acai berry powder or 1 frozen pulp pack
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp Ormus Super Greens or 1 handful of spinach
1 tbsp each goji berries, chia seeds and manuka honey
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 1-3 minutes.
Serve in two tall glasses with a Glass Dharma Straw!
Guest Blogger: Julia Kirouac, CNP, Holistic Nutritionist, Founder: nud fud
Agave nectar is a sweetener that has been getting a lot of press and gaining in popularity. Many people have jumped on the agave bandwagon without really thinking about what they are putting into their bodies. (At least we are consistent here!!)
Agave nectar is used so much because it is labeled as a “healthy” sugar alternative. It is known as a low glycemic sweetener, it is vegan, and raw foodists use it. It is also three times sweeter than cane sugar. Therefore, you only need 1/3 of the amount of agave as compared to sugar.
Agave is a low glycemic sweetener because of its fructose content. Fructose has to be converted to glucose in the liver. This extra step reduces and delays any sugar spike in the blood stream.
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, which is the same plant that provides us with tequila. Agave is made by stripping the liquid from the heart of the 7-10 year old agave plant. Then, the liquid is filtered and heated to convert the inulin (plant starch) to fructose and reduce the moisture content to make a thick syrup.
So what’s the big deal?
May not be as low glycemic as we think.
The characteristics of agave can vary greatly depending on the processing. Some agave can contain as little as 55% fructose (the same amount as high fructose corn syrup) This percentage does not help diabetics who are looking for a low glycemic sweetener as the higher the fructose is, the lower the blood glucose will be.
Agave is a manufactured syrup that is stripped from fiber and most nutrients and it would not exist in nature without a human hand. Many commercial agave is made by using genetically modified enzymes, caustic acids and chemicals like activated charcoal, hydrofluoric acid, clarimex, and others.
Also depending on how it is processed, agave may not be raw. Some are processed at high heats instead of using enzymes to break down the inulin to fructose, a similar process to how we convert cornstarch to High Fructose Corn Syrup. Some manufacturers have been known to cut agave with corn syrup to reduce costs.
High in fructose!
Wait, wasn’t this what was good about agave and made it lower glycemic? Yes but, it gives you high blood fructose instead of high blood glucose, which some argue as being even worse. If you aren’t a diabetic, you don’t need to monitor your blood glucose. We need glucose to live! It is an important energy source for our cells and our brain.
Some suggest that high blood fructose is related to high blood pressure and interferes with a healthy metabolism and with appetite control mechanisms allowing you to consume more food than normal. Some also suggest that it contributes to weight gain, increases insulin resistance, and may hurt the liver. Fructose is thought to be damaging in amounts over 25g/day. This is equivalent to only one tablespoon of agave nectar.
Agave is not much different than any other fructose syrup for our bodies. We are all pretty aware of the fact that high fructose corn syrup is bad for us. Agave has up to 35% more fructose than high fructose corn syrup!
Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, from the American College of Nutrition and John Hopkins School of Public Health, agrees agave is not the healthy alternative we may think, “Agave is almost all fructose, a highly processed sugar with great marketing.”
Agave is not produced locally. The agave plant is grown in desert-like climates and therefore comes from very far distances to get to our grocery stores and our plates. This means agave has a large carbon footprint, making it the less environmentally-friendly choice as a sweetener. The actual plant has to be “killed” in order to make this product, so it is not sustainable either.
What should you use as a substitute?
Keep it simple and as close to nature as possible.
I love to use organic, unsulphured, unsweetened dried fruit. This way, you are still getting sweetness with the added benefit of fiber, minerals and vitamins. Fruits have fructose in them, however unlike with agave, it comes packaged with other nutrients and in lower amounts. Did I mention that fiber also helps to reduce the glycemic index of foods as it increases the time it takes for your body to break it down and assimilate the nutrients, reducing sugar spikes. If the fruit is soaked and blended, you can incorporate it into recipes easily. These are also less processed and local (depending on the fruit).
Organic, raw, green, unprocessed stevia is another great substitute to use in moderation. It is an herb that is not metabolized so it is also low in calories.
Honey and maple syrup involve less processing, are found locally, and contain more nutrients than agave.
Before you feel like something else has been ruined and must be taken from your diet, or you lose faith in the health world and “health” products, remember education and moderation are always a key to healthy living J
Vegan Chocolate Cake
Julia Kirouac CNP, Founder nūd fūd
1 ½ c organic spelt flour
½ c cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 c dates (soaked in 1 c water)
½ c organic olive oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
1 tsp good quality instant coffee (optional to enhance chocolate flavour)
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Oil and cover pan with parchment paper
- Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder
- Blend the soaked dates in a blender until a smooth consistency
- Add vanilla, coffee (if using), oil, to date mixture
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix
- Add in the apple cider vinegar, stir briefly, pale swirls will appear
- Quickly pour batter into prepared pans
- Bake for 35-40 min. Makes quite a moist cake from the dates.
Healthy Chocolate Icing
½ ripe avocado
6 pitted medjool dates
4 tbsp cacao
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup or raw honey
- Blend everything in a high speed blender or food processor until smooth
- Pour over cake and enjoy J Will harden more in fridge
Thank You Julia for making this more clear. Everyone seems to be so confused about Agave recently and the more information we read the more people can come to their own conclusions!
What are your thoughts on Agave?
What sweetener do you use?
 http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5846333/fulltext.html, producing fructose syrup from agave plants
Date Almond Pudding
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 Medjool dates (soaked overnight or boiling water for 20-30 minutes)
2 tbsp of pure unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp almond butter or 1/2 cup raw almonds (soaked in water overnight for 8 hrs.)
1 tsp cinnamonCombine the ingredients in a blender and whirl on high until well blended into a thick creamy pudding.
Divide the pudding into 2 servings