Merry Christmas – and Let There Be Cookies!

Snickerdoodles with cardamom

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I know that Christmas just isn’t complete without something sweet, and cookies are too good to pass up! But, if you need a nutritionist’s blessing over your Holiday table to feel less guilty about indulging, here it is. While you can make healthier cookies using anything from vegan butter, to finely ground nuts, gluten-free flour, and agave nectar – even if you make your Christmas cookies with white sugar and shortening, the spices in them still have very healthy qualities. 

Why Christmas Cookies Are Healthy For You (kinda)

Gingerbread Cookies

Ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg combine to make gingerbread cookies rich, spicy, delicious – and healthy. A true superfood, ginger improves blood flow, prevents colon cancer, reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system and fights respiratory problems brought on by winter colds. Cinnamon helps reduce bad cholesterol; cloves are packed with antioxidants and manganese (which helps you control your weight and improve your mood); and nutmeg contains trace minerals that strengthen the immune system, and antibacterial properties that help protect teeth and gums. You can even find nutmeg oil in some toothpastes.

Find a healthy Gingerbread Cookie recipe using spelt flour here.

Snickerdoodles

The main ingredient flavoring delicious, soft and chewy Snickerdoodles is cinnamon. Cinnamon reduces LDL cholesterol levels (which, in turn, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease), fights ulcer-causing bacteria and pathogens, is anti-inflammatory, and helps balance hormones in women.

Find a vegan Snickerdoodle recipe here.

Lebkuchen

This German Christmas cookie is made with a number of spices, candied citrus peels, hazelnuts and almonds. The combination of cinnamon, ginger and cloves is powerful enough to make them healthier than the average cookie, but when you add ingredients like flavanoid-rich orange and lemon peels, constipation-reducing dates, and protein and good fat-packed nuts, this cookie starts looking more like a breakfast bar you’d find in a health food store! If, that is, it weren’t for all the sugar.

Martha Stewart’s Lebkuchen recipe here.

Enjoy everything on your holiday table this year, and we at Intelligent Gourmet wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Find these recipes and more on the Intelligent Gourmet Holidays Pinterest Board

Vitamins Shmitamins – Scientists Confirm Common Sense

Citrus and beet saladAchieving great health isn’t as easy as popping a pill – so say five physicians from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Warwick Medical School in a recent journal editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The story has been making headlines this month because the news is shocking to many self-described “health nuts.”

For me, this news couldn’t be more exciting. I’ve been telling people for years that whole foods – WHOLE FOODS! – are what your body needs to process just the right amounts of nutrition. Whole foods are almost always naturally balanced so their healing, healthful properties work together, boosting each other and catalyzing each other. When you separate out and condense one good property from its support system, the result isn’t nearly as beneficial – in fact, it can even be harmful.

That vitamins can be harmful may be the real shocker in this revelation. The authors specify Beta-carotene, vitamin E, and high doses of vitamin A supplements as being particularly bad, and the physicians were not at all impressed with folic acid, B vitamins, mineral supplements and multivitamins either.

Their conclusion?

A balanced diet is the best approach.

No kidding! Antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients aren’t meant to be solo acts – they’re ensemble players. They need their supporting casts to do their work. In fact, the only vitamin not yet on the “Naughty List” is folic acid for pregnant women (and I’d still recommend a whole foods approach of leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli and citrus). Oh, and that vitamin D3? Get it from sunlight (you can overdose by pill, but your skin absorbs only what you need from the sun).

The journal article is titled “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” and I recommend everyone read it. Then come in to Intelligent Gourmet and drink some nutrition-packed juice. It’s better than any vitamin!

5 Exotic Superfoods You’ve Never Heard Of

Tokyo farmers market

Ancient cultures, Eastern cultures, native cultures – they all have so much to offer with their traditional foods and we are discovering more of them every day. This year, have a little fun with your healthy food and try some of these wild, fun, and freekeh superfoods!

Yes, I said Freekeh.

5 Exotic Superfoods You’ve Never Heard Of

1. Freekeh – This ancient Middle Eastern dish is made from green wheat that has been roasted. Compared with other grains, it has four times as much fiber and has a low glycemic index, making it ideal for dieters and diabetics.
2. Kukicha twig tea – Literally made from the sticks of the kukicha plant, this green tea has towering levels of antioxidants and has an alkalizing effect on the body. Curative bonuses include reducing bloating and easing nausea.
3. Cupuaçu – A pulpy tropical fruit that has both antioxidants and essential fatty acids, the Cupuaçu might show up in your face cream before it appears in the produce section of your grocery store. That’s because it nourishes, repairs and regenerates skin cells.
4. Fenugreek – Often used in Indian and Asian cooking, this herb just might contain the cure for the common cold and relieve sore throats. It’s also been claimed that it may improve diabetes symptoms, menopausal symptoms, and menstrual cramps.
5. Jerusalem artichokes – You’ve seen them, thought they were ginger, and when you found out they weren’t, you wondered “what do you do with these?!” Don’t let these unusual roots intimidate you. You can cook them just like you would potatoes or parsnips, though they taste like a nutty, crunchy artichoke. Boil, sauté, bake or steam – or eat them raw – and enjoy this rich source of inulin, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and magnesium.

5 Foods to Cure Your Cold Fast

Mushroom health properties

This time of year, everyone seems to have their own fail-proof “cure” for the common cold. Some swear by eating whole raw cloves of garlic (you can smell them coming). Others say the Vietnamese chicken soup, Pho Ga, with lots of spice added is what you need.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away for many, and Mom’s traditional chicken noodle soup (or Campbell’s canned comfort-food) is a beloved standby.

While all of these “cures” have good reasons behind them (garlic is an antibacterial and immune system booster; chicken soup and apples have cold-fighting enzymes), there are even more powerful cold-fighters out there if you know where to look.

5 Super Cold-Stoppers

  1. Goji berries are not only packed with antioxidants, they also have cold-fighting and immune system boosting properties. They contain more iron than spinach, along with lots of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.
  2. Coconut oil not only boosts the immune system for colds, but has antiviral properties. So whether your stuffy nose is the result of bacteria or a virus, coconut oil will fight both. (Tip: You can also use a dime-size amount topically on your hair to relieve dry, itchy scalp and make your hair shine)
  3. Mushrooms are one of the best food sources for vitamin D – when you can’t get out to soak up the sun yourself. Vitamin D enhances your body’s immune system response to viruses, bacteria and fungi.
  4. Wheat germ is full of vitamin E (an immune system booster), calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, omega-6 fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory, as well as a digestion aid, which means it will help you feel better as it helps heal you from the inside-out. Try adding some ginger and garlic to a vegetable stirfry, soup, or green juice.

The 2 Worst Foods For Your Cold

  1. When you have a cold, sugar is the worst thing you can eat. Sugar actually works against your white blood cells, making it harder for them to fight infections. Natural sugars, like those you get from apples and oranges are fine, but stay away from processed, pre-packaged foods (even OJ!).
  2. Alcohol has properties that can suppress your immune system, preventing your body from fighting off infection. Even though a Hot Toddy with brandy, honey, tea and lemon might sound like just what your throat needs, you should leave out the brandy (the other ingredients are great!).

Stay well this season!