It’s that time of the year again

It’s probably the biggest understatement to say this year was an unusual year and a tough year. We all know why that is. I think too we don’t always realize the impact the pandemic has taken on people’s health both physically and mentally.

Usually this time of year I write an ‘end of the year’ post reminding people to set some goals and to do their best to achieve them. With all we have been going through this year I think this is even more important to do. This too is the time we really need to think outside of the box. Gyms are closed. Health studios are closed. We are spending more time inside away from people and for some of us, that means being alone for long lengths of time. I read an instagram post lately that reminded people to give each other a break because we don’t know what they are going through. We should always do that but maybe more so now. It made me think about what we are going through. Although we are in an unprecedented time it can at times seem very normal to some. Unlike a major event such as a world war where cities are bombed relentlessly, people are sent away to fight and maybe never seen again, foods and supplies are rationed, our world doesn’t look really any different. We still have our internet to bring us movies and other entertainment. Most of us are still carrying out our daily grind of working. I often hear from people that their life hasn’t changed much at all as they generally are people who stay in most of the time so bar closures, no dine-in options, etc., aren’t really impacting them.

Sometimes we notice how things are different when it comes to wanting to do something we were able to do a year ago. Usually at this time of year my sister and I would see a move in a theatre. The family would get together at my mom’s place for Christmas. Having lunch with someone at your favorite restaurant is not an option right now.

These inconveniences can seem pale in comparison to what people had to go through in the past but we live in different times today. I think the things that have been taken away from us are things that have been ingrained into our day to day. Just look at the numbers of people working from home. Maybe their only social activity was interacting with their coworkers and now they have lost that for many months, and maybe many more. What is the impact of that on someone’s mental health?

So where am I going with this? Hmm, I’m not sure I know myself. Maybe we need to give each other more slack. Maybe we need to be more empathetic with each other.

For ourselves, we need to be inventive and dynamic when it comes to taking care of our physical health. This is the time to create your home gym. There are a lot of options for this. Bodyweight exercises, cardio workouts that don’t need much space at all. Just search Youtube for bodyweight exercises and you’ll find more than you need.

We have enough stress in our lives. Don’t stress the things you cannot change. Instead use that energy to see what you can do in light of the change. Be adaptable, be resilient, be positive as you can be. There are a lot of things we cannot change that we wish we could. All that we can change is how we react to these things. That is all that we have control over.

Try to remember that during these times and future times. YOU are the one who decides how to react to things.

And just try your best.

Yours in health,

Darryl

When looking for something sweet…

Who doesn’t enjoy something sweet once in a while? Not just sweet like strawberries or another berry but something sweet that also has a chocolate touch to it. Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can have this by using dates for the sweetness which will also provide you with some fiber and other good things, all the while giving you that sweet treat that you are looking for.

what

close up photo of raisins and dates
Photo by Naim Benjelloun on Pexels.com

So what are dates, and do they contain any nutrients that are beneficial? For this article whenever I refer to dates I’m referring to medjool dates. Dates, native to Morocco, are also referred to as the fruit of kings. They have a sweet caramel taste with a chewy texture and are high in vitamins and nutrients. Here is the vitamin and mineral profile from 3 pitted medjool dates:

Vitamins and minerals from 3 dates. Source: Cronometer.com

A good source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and some B vitamins amongst other minerals and vitamins.

Now, keep in mind that dates are high in calories and naturally occurring sugars so enjoy them in moderation. But, here is a funny thing. Although dates contain about 80% sugar, sugar levels much higher than sugared cereals such as Fruit Loops which has 40% sugar, the sugar doesn’t adversely affect your body such as processed sugar does. And of course, we should have concerns about eating high sugar foods as they can raise our blood sugar, raise our triglycerides, oxidatively stress our bodies, and make us fat. So are dates bad for us? Does the high sugar level cancel out the high vitamin and mineral levels, and the fiber content?

Dates are great. No adverse effects on blood sugar or weight, and beneficial improvements in triglycerides and antioxidant stress levels. In a study carried out, ten healthy subjects consumed for a period of 4 weeks 100 g/day of either Medjool or Hallawi dates. So what happened? Did their blood sugar levels rise? Not at all. Their BMI, serum total cholesterol, fasting serum glucose and triacylglycerol levels were not increased after consumption of either date variety, and serum triacylglycerol levels even significantly (p < 0.05) decreased, by 8 or 15% after Medjool or Hallawi date consumption, respectively. And here’s more. Check out the title of this review on PubMed, “…possible best food?”. This study also concludes:  “In many ways, dates may be considered as an almost ideal food, providing a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits.”

There you have it. A fantastic alternative to sugar, artificial sweeteners, or whatever you might be using. Now, don’t go around with a bag of dates in your pocket snacking all day on them. All good things in moderation.

how

So, back to the beginning. Want a sweet chocolatey snack that has many good things in it? Try this out and feel free to substitute the nuts or nut butter to what you have on hand or prefer:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 1/3 cups dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup crushed raw pecans

Grind walnuts and dates in a food processor until finely ground. Add the almond butter and process until well mixed. Add the cocoa powder and pulse to mix well. Transfer to a pan of appropriate size and press down firmly using your finger, spoon or whatever flattening implement you have. Sprinkle the top with the crushed pecans, cover and put in the fridge for a while, about an hour. After the hour, cut into squares and enjoy.

As I said earlier you can use whatever nuts you like. I’ve done this recipe with pumpkin, sunflower seeds and also with almonds. If you want to lighten up the sweetness try using one cup instead of the additional third cup of dates. It’s up to you.

finally

And with that, you have a natural way to sweeten your dessert, or snack of choice.

Lastly, don’t forget all the plant nutrients you are getting, the phytonutrients that only occur in plants and are a natural disease fighter.

Yours in health,

Darryl