Product review: IQ Superfood Chocolate

Even those transitioning to a strict macrobiotic lifestyle can occasionally be tempted by a piece of chocolate. Chocolate suffers from a poor image, yet this is hardly surprising as most of what we call chocolate is mainly sugar, milk and additives. Check the label of a lot of organic chocolate which available in supermarkets and you will find the same thing. Although the ingredients are of higher quality, there is still far too much sugar and the processes involved rob the chocolate of much of its nutritional value, even if it does taste delicious.

The Macrobiotic Shop is no stranger to the temptations of chocolate. We believe that the right chocolate, taken in small doses, can go a long way to satisfying sweet cravings, for example when we are on the road. Good chocolate can also provide a lot of genuine nutritional benefits. For a long time we have stocked a very good sugar free and dairy free chocolate bar made by La Finestra. But recently we took on a new chocolate supplier, IQ Superfood Chocolate.

IQ Superfood Chocolate is made in Stirling, Scotland and claims to be nut free, gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, soya free and with a low GI. Jane of IQ Chocolate contacted us to see what we thought.  We wondered what it would taste like, given its extraordinary health claims. Our first impressions are that this chocolate is in a class of its own, and so we immediately ordered our first batch. The taste and texture are really outstanding. This is probably thanks to the exquisite beans which are imported from Peru and ground in Scotland. It’s also a raw chocolate, which means that the fantastic nutritional benefits of the cacao bean are preserved.

The chocolate is sweetened with coconut blossom sugar, which results in a lower GI than many other sweeteners, including maple syrup, sugar or brown rice syrup. But, as with all sugars, the most important thing is simply to consume less of it. Taste-wise, IQ Superfood Chocolate is exquisite. It’s not overly sweet, and the flavour of the beans can really be appreciated. The company makes a wide range of flavours using all organic ingredients, including:

Unlike some other raw chocolates we have tried, the texture is not at all gritty and the taste is far superior. We recommend starting with the cacao nib crunch.

Macrobiotic Shop featured in The Sheffield Star

Last Friday The Sheffield Star published an article entitled ‘Macrobiotic cookery class bids to improve Yorkshire’s health‘. The article reports on the health crises facing much of today’s population and how a wholefoods, plant-based diet can combat many of these issues. Here is an excerpt:

“Japan underwent rapid change at the start of the 20th century when the country’s diet changed because of western influences. This brought with it many illnesses and social problems,” said Georgina.

“George Ohsawa observed the rapid decline in health and set about creating a popular movement for health.” It was based on whole grains, such as millet, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and pearled barley, and fermented products such as miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and pickles. He called it the macrobiotic diet.

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/health/macrobiotic-cookery-class-bids-to-improve-yorkshire-s-health-1-8662455

 

 

Master Cleanse – Part 2

Master Cleanse – Part  1

Day 11

Last night I fell asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed, which rarely happens for me. I hope this will continue. Yesterday’s positive mood, enhanced clarity and increased vitality continued throughout today.

Day 12

Rapid slumber and another great night’s sleep last night. I’m still feeling all the benefits of the past couple of days. If things continue as they are, with little or no discernible day-to-day changes, I’ll probably start grouping those days’ journal entries together in order to maintain your interest and to avoid this journal becoming overly long.

Day 13

Ha! Famous last words…. Sleep was still improved and I awoke feeling good again but then I started to become aware of a slight loss of concentration during the drive to work. This continued throughout the day. Is this the beginning of a decline? I’ll monitor this symptom closely. I increased the number of glasses of lemonade throughout the day. I’ve not been hitting the maximum 12 glasses over the past couple of days, purely because I’ve not felt sufficiently hungry.

Day 14

This morning I felt somewhat light-headed and the concentration issue persisted throughout the day.

This is of particular concern when driving. Clearly, increasing the quantity of lemonade I drank yesterday has not had the desired effect. A slight downturn in mood was also noticeable.

Day 15

A further noticeable drop in positivity and mood was apparent today and the light-headedness and lack of concentration continued. Tomorrow I plan to introduce some plain organic short-grain brown rice to my diet to see whether it will alleviate these symptoms.

Day 16

Today was basically similar to yesterday except for the addition of a bowl of brown rice at dinner time. Extra concentration was required behind the wheel during the journeys to and from work.

Day 17

The brown rice meal yesterday evening seems to have yielded some improvement to my overall mood and concentration. It was suggested to me that I’m possibly suffering from a lack of minerals so I may continue with the additional rice for a day or two.

Day 18

Further improvement in concentration and less of that light-headed feeling were noticeable again today. I’m still feeling good in myself and a colleague commented that I seemed to be in a better mood. I ate rice again this evening and sleep was deep & restful.

Days 19 & 20

The rice intake of the past 3 days has certainly made a difference. The drive to work was without issue and my concentration lasted throughout the day, on both days. I left out the rice on both days.

Day 21

Clearly the addition of rice to my diet is a significant factor in maintaining concentration, as the light-headedness and dip in mood returned today after two days without it. As the third weekend of the fast approaches, I’m wondering whether this journey is becoming a little too extreme now. Thoughts of cutting the cleanse short of the planned 28 days have begun to manifest. I’ve still got plenty of syrup left to use so I’ll see what the weekend brings.

Days 22 & 23

I ate a bowl of rice on the Saturday but not on the Sunday. I felt good throughout the weekend and I decided that I’m going to push for the target over the next five days. I’m so close! I plan to eat a bowl of rice on alternate days during the home run.

Days 24 – 27

There appears to be little or no change to my overall well-being from day-to-day and as a result, these last few days have become increasingly boring. I continue to feel vital, sharp and I’m still feeling all the positive benefits that became so apparent during days 9 to 12. It seems that I’ve reached the peak.

Day 28

Yes!! Job done! The sense of achievement alone is sufficient to carry me through today. Extra syrup and rice for me this evening, I reckon I’ve earned it. I’m so looking forward to fresh, home-made organic apple, beetroot, carrot and broccoli juice for breakfast tomorrow.

Epilogue

10 days have passed since I finished the fast so I thought I’d share some thoughts on my post-cleanse experience. For the first three days I gradually transitioned back from liquids to more solid foods, basically a reversal of the ease-in process. I ditched the occasional meal of brown rice that I’d been eating as the juices and pulps were sufficient to provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that I became deficient in during the second half of the fast.

Having not shopped for almost a month, going to the stores has been a novel experience. I’ve bought only organic produce, mainly vegetables, brown rice and dried beans & pulses. I’ve also started my move toward macrobiotics by getting into sea vegetables, tempeh, seitan, miso and various flavouring condiments. I’ve really enjoyed the new things I’ve tried so far and I’ve felt a real sense of well-being knowing that I’m only consuming the best-available nourishment. It’s kinda like ‘everything counts’ now – pure total goodness!

The transition back to solids has had some noticeable effects on my body. I’ve again experienced some sensitivity in the digestive tract which is diminishing as time passes. I guess this is due to the return of the natural peristaltic function that becomes suppressed when consuming only liquids. Also noteworthy is that I’m eating less than I used to and I’ve not had any of the previous cravings for snacks that I used to get, which I’m really happy about.

Towards the end of the cleanse it occurred to me that my weight might continue to drop slightly as my metabolic rate increased and returned to normal. This seems counter-intuitive and is not what I’d intended but it has, in fact, been the case. By the end of the fast I’d shed about 6 kilos and during the following week I lost another one. My weight has now stabilised and my body shape is as before, only leaner.

My lemonade master cleanse experience has been a good one overall. As with any fast, it had its tough moments and 28 days is probably pushing things for the first one. The recommended duration for a first-timer is 10 days and the record for the longest fast is reported as being 356 days! It’s definitely something I’d consider doing again periodically, although hopefully my new dietary regime means it won’t be necessary. It’s definitely a worthwhile exercise in self-discipline and focusing the mind. For further information visit http://themastercleanse.org/.

Thanks to Georgina at Macrobiotic Shop for providing the maple syrup and for the educational gems & dietary wisdom along the way. I look forward to meeting you and extending my knowledge of macrobiotics at your next cookery class.

By Mel

Master Cleanse – Part  1

A day in the mountains – the Vegan Welsh 3000s ultra race

Photos by Scott Seefeldt

Last Friday the Macrobiotic Shop closed early for the day and headed over to Snowdonia in North Wales to take part in the sixth edition of the V3K Ultra, a very tough and quite unique mountain running race which takes in all of the Welsh 3000s in the course of about 35 miles. The race is also known as Vegan Welsh 3000s, and is organised by Kirsch Bowker and a team of fantastic volunteers. The Welsh 3000s is a classic one-day mountain trek, taking in Snowdon, Crib Goch, Tryfan and 12 other 3,000 foot peaks.

According to the race manual, These races are only suitable for experienced fell runners over our toughest mountain terrain, certainly NOT for the faint hearted!“. Nevertheless this year the race attracted 200 runners for the full (ultra) distance and 30 for the half distance. Aside from the normal rules to be adhered to in such events, the V3K also requires all competitors to consume a vegan diet for the day. The race has grown rapidly from starting with only three entrants in 2011 to having to set a limit of 200 this year.

In fact there has been a big increase in the number of runners and other athletes choosing a vegan diet not only for ethical reasons but for health ones as well.  The most famous of these is the legendary Scott Juerk who wrote the highly recommended book Eat and Run, part autobiography, part guidebook for those wishing to improve their health and athletic performance through  diet. Jurek’s dietary approach borrows a lot from macrobiotics, with a big emphasis on whole grains. Here in the UK the Vegan Runners club is a great place to meet other athletes following a plant-based diet. It’s a club we are  very happy to be members of.

Anyway, we were naturally both pretty nervous in the days leading up to the start, as we had been somewhat lacking in our preparation. But when we arrived Friday afternoon at Hendre Hall we immediately felt really welcome. The organisers do a very good job of providing excellent food on Friday evening and all day during the race on Saturday. Hendre Hall is a really good venue for such an event, a very spacious farm with a sheltered courtyard adjoined by a small campsite. While many of the runners are not normally vegan, we didn’t hear anyone complaining about the food. The pre-race meal of curry or pasta was followed by the race briefing, then it was off to bed to try and get some sleep before catching the bus to the race start at 4am for the ultra race. Georgina, who was running the half, had the luxury of a later start, and was able to have a little bit of a lie in.

Straight away the race climbs fairly steeply to the summit of Snowdon before heading over the infamous Crib Goch and then descending to Checkpoint 1. The rain which had been forecast did not materialise, but the morning was damp and foggy, not ideal for scrambling up and down steep cliffs and jagged rocks. But the atmosphere was great, lots of like-minded people off for an adventure over some seriously daunting terrain.

Crib Goch

Crib Goch is a knife-edge arête with very steep and deep drops on either side. One misstep would mean disaster. Although I consider myself a reasonable runner, I don’t really like heights and I am not exactly nimble when it comes such terrain. As a result, progress to Checkpoint 1 was slow, as I carefully picked my way over these perilous mountains.


The author somewhere on Crib Goch

The rest of the day went on in a similar way – frightening rock spires suddenly appearing out of the fog, steep drops, beautiful mountain lakes and waterfalls appearing briefly when the clouds lifted. I met so many other wonderful ultra runners and had the chance to briefly bond with a few. The two checkpoints were well stocked with all kinds of vegan food, most of it freshly prepared and quite good. The vegetable soup at Ogwen was the most memorable, as were the roasted potatoes to be grabbed and eaten on the run. I also took along a little food of my own, most importantly tempeh, avocado and home made kimchi wraps.


A runner high above Glaslyn, or Blue Lake

The second and third sections of the race were equally difficult in their own way. The Glyders were full of steep ups and down, with some difficult rocky climbs, especially the final climb of Tryfan and the very steep descent to Ogwen. The final section, the Carneddau, was very high, cold and exposed, with strong winds and swirling fog which meant that the last 15 miles to the finish were tough indeed.


Wet and foggy conditions led to tricky footing

Eventually I made it back to the finish at Hendre Hall, completing the race in a little over 12 hours. By the end my whole body felt shattered. My legs and arms were scratched in many places, my thighs could barely support me and even my biceps and forearms were aching from having to pull myself up and over high rocks and then lower myself down the other side. I even discovered a gaping hole in the back of my shorts where no doubt the fabric had shredded on one of the scree slopes I had slid down on my backside.

Despite having competed in and finished such ultra events as the 268 mile Spine Race, nothing had prepared me for such an arduous day.


Steep and rocky descents left runners with shattered legs

But my big goal for the day had been to catch Georgina before the finish. In the lead up to the race I had done some rough estimates and worked out that I had a good chance of catching Georgina on the run in to the finish. When, after over 10 hours on the run, I reached the summit of the final peak, Foel Fras, I asked the marshal if #326 (Georgina) had checked in. When I was informed she hadn’t, I naturally grew concerned. Had the marshal just missed her in the fog or had something else happened? I knew that even if she had run a very slow pace she would have reached Foel Fras easily by now. Was she perhaps lost or injured?


The finisher’s t-shirt

After collecting my finisher’s prizes I staggered back to our weather-beaten camper van. hoping to find Georgina there in one piece. I gave the door a shove and found her fast asleep inside, equally exhausted after many adventures, which included getting lost in the fog and falling into several bogs.

Georgina’s race report to follow…

The master cleanse

The Master Cleanse by Mel

For many years my dietary regime was based on the premise of only eating that which can be caught or picked. I shunned processed & tinned foods and avoided as many refined substances as possible, particularly white foodstuffs such as sugar, flour, rice and pasta. Then, around 20 years ago, I gave up eating all meat apart from seafood. More recently I’ve also relinquished even that due to the ever-increasing amount of pollution being released into our oceans and, specifically, the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Contamination of our food is, of course, not limited to our waters. The ongoing contamination (accidental & deliberate) and genetic modification of our crops, coupled with the use of poisonous fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides means that it is more difficult than ever before to source clean, wholesome nutrition.

These reasons are the primary motivating factor for my undertaking the master cleanse. Once complete, I plan to consume only organic and whole foods where possible and I’ve also begun to research switching to a macrobiotic-only diet in time. Common sense and a small amount of critical thinking inform me that in order to maximise the benefits of making these changes, it is first necessary to start with as clean a digestive system as possible otherwise what is the point? It’s the classic scenario of deconstruction prior to reconstruction, applied to nutritional intake.

The re-education of the digestive system and its effects on the body is not something to be entered into lightly and I’m expecting to experience a number of side-effects as I progress through the cleanse. These may include headaches; cold & flu symptoms; dermal symptoms such as spots; tenderness of the digestive tract; feeling light-headed and a reduced ability to concentrate.

There are numerous other worthwhile & diverse reasons for cleansing which I won’t dwell on here. One such example is the gradual deconstruction of the National Health Service here in the UK to a system that is increasingly mirroring that of the USA. This process is already well underway. It is becoming more incumbent on individuals to take responsibility for their own health if they wish to avoid the looming cost of medical care and to minimise the financial liability of (not) being able to afford medical insurance.

Governing all of this is one very important factor which should not be ignored – INSTINCT! I feel that the time is right for me to embark on this adventure; to make these changes in my life. I hope that I will be a happier, healthier, more positive individual, with an increased sense of overall well-being as a result. The following quotes bring it all together perfectly for me:

“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.”
Judith McNaught, Remember When

and

“It’s very simple. Keep your body as clean as possible, your mind as clear as possible. That’s all you need. And do it in anyway you can, in your own way. It doesn’t matter. That’s why I say ‘peaceful body, peaceful mind’. And then you’ll be useful. You don’t have to become a useful person. You will be useful.”
Swami Satchidananda

Ingredients used

  • Terrasana organic 100% maple syrup, grade C (dark colour, robust, smoky flavour)
  • Organic lemons
  • Fresh organic cayenne pepper
  • Filtered water
  • Organic laxative senna tea (don’t use psyllium-based laxative tea)

Quantities Used & Method

  • 2 x tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 x tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • one eighth to one quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper according to taste. Use as much as you can handle but bear in mind that the level of heat you feel in your throat and stomach after drinking will be reflected later at the other end!
  • 8 – 10 oz water

I found that the pepper is more easily combined if it is mixed with the syrup first. Then add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and water. The lemon needs to be freshly squeezed in order to preserve the enzymes within.

Drink a glass or two of the mixture at meal times and whenever you feel hungry. A minimum of 6 glasses should be consumed each day although more is better, up to a maximum of 12 per day.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

1 cup of laxative tea MUST be taken first thing in the morning and another one before bed. This is essential to instigate the necessary bowel movement which would normally happen naturally when consuming solid food. Lack of a bowel movement is dangerous.


Preparation

A 3 day ease-in is recommended to allow the digestive system to adjust to a liquid-based diet. As someone who habitually eats a lot of raw vegetables, pulping and juicing these was an easy solution. I ate home-made hummus, fruit and raw veg on the first day and gradually increased the amount of these that I juiced on days two and three.

Observations

Days 1 – 3

Hunger pangs were the main issue for me during the first few days. I found that these can be suppressed by increasing the amount of cayenne pepper. Once I had the balance right, I was surprised by the lack of a hungry feeling. A mild headache developed on the third evening.

Day 4

Cold symptoms developing comprising sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and increased mucus production. Faint headache persisting but feeling good “in myself”.

Day 5

Cold symptoms worsening, mild ache in kidneys, headache persisting but becoming intermittent. Mild tenderness in the gut which feels like internal bruising – a sure sign that the cayenne pepper is having its cleansing effect.

Day 6

Peak cold symptoms and continuing kidney tenderness. A few spots developing on face. Feeling run down today.

Day 7

Cold symptoms and tenderness in kidneys subsiding. I’m feeling a rush of energy up the body after each glass of the mixture.

Day 8

Cold symptoms, kidney pain and tenderness in gut have gone. I feel that I’ve passed the low point and that I’m now rebounding. Run-down feelings of the last few days have disappeared and I’m feeling more energised after each drink.

Day 9

Feeling better again with increased vitality. A colleague who was unaware of my cleansing adventure remarked that I look younger today and that my eyes are brighter. My skin feels less dry and despite the occasional spot, it looks clearer. Sleep was more restful and long-lasting. After 9 days, weight loss is around 3 kilos.

Day 10

This morning I awoke feeling a distinct improvement in my overall well-being. Increased energy, vitality, focus and clarity are remarkable – an almost “wired” feeling, if you will. My general mood is also noticeably more positive and light-hearted. There is definite spring in my step and during the somewhat stressful drive to work I was calmer, sharper & able to anticipate the road ahead with an apparently effortless clarity.

Master Cleanse – Part  2