Healthy Frozen Treat: Raw Banana Chocolate Almond Popsicles Recipe

These yummy frozen treats are great after a hot day! If you’re looking for a healthy dessert for your kids, or are a former ice cream lover wanting a healthy upgrade, or even if you want a new raw food dessert recipe to try, then these popsicles are for you!

The perfect frozen summer treat, and it's healthy!

The perfect frozen summer treat, and it’s healthy!

The best part about this recipe is that it’s fast and easy and doesn’t have a lot of ingredients. Raw food for busy people? Totally possible! Affordable vegan and vegetarian food? Yes! Something healthy that actually tastes good? You bet! Scroll down to see how.

Blend just a few simple organic ingredients to make yummy frozen raw treats!

Blend just a few simple organic ingredients to make yummy frozen raw treats!

How to Make Raw Cacao, Banana & Almond Popsicles

One Day Before

1. Soak 2 cups of organic almonds overnight. Rinse and drain.

2. Peel 4 ripe organic bananas and cut bananas into pieces. Place in a ziplock bag and put in the freezer overnight.

Prep Day

3. Place the following into a high-speed blender:

– Soaked organic almonds (water drained)
– Frozen bananas (already peeled and frozen)
– 1/2 cup filtered water
– 2 Tablespoons organic raw cacao powder
– 2 Tablespoons organic raw cacao nibs
– 2 Tablespoons raw honey (optional) Note: For vegans, use 2 teaspoons of organic stevia powder instead.

Want to know where to buy the organic cacao powder, cacao nibs, raw honey or stevia powder? Check this link!

Blend all ingredients until creamy and smooth.

Blend all ingredients until creamy and smooth.

4. Blend until creamy and smooth.

(Note: I use a Vitamix blender but you can use any high power blender. If your blender is a bit old or not feeling its best, then use 1 cup of water instead of 1/2 cup and add the frozen bananas slowly.)

Place the blended mixture into molds then freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Place the blended mixture into molds then freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

5. Pour blended mixture into cups or molds. Add a wooden stick or holder to make the popsicle easy to hold once it’s set.

(Note: I bought these molds at a Dollar store. I also use cups and non-chemically treated wooden spoons sometimes too.)

6. Once the molds are filled, place them into the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight.

7. Now they’re ready to eat! Simply pop the frozen treat out of the mold and you’ve got your own homemade healthy popsicle!

(Note: If the popsicle doesn’t “pop” out easily, let it stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes and try again.)

The perfect frozen summer treat, and it's healthy!

The perfect frozen summer treat, and it’s healthy!

This is a fast and easy way to make the chocolate lover in your house happy with a healthy raw cacao frozen treat! Kids love them and believe me, adults love them too! This recipe is also gluten-free so it’s perfect for anyone looking for good wheat-free desserts. And, it’s a fun way to share the idea of raw food with family and friends. When they see for themselves how good it tastes, they might actually want to know more!

Using 100% certified organic ingredients gives you the best quality, flavor and nutrients!

Using 100% certified organic ingredients gives you the best quality, flavor and nutrients!

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

More on Nut Milk and Healthy Recipes:

Why I left Koh Samui, Thailand and Why I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel

This is a question I get asked A LOT, and I’m excited to share the answer with you! Read on to find out why!

When I first left my engineering job at Merck to cycle around the world more than 13 years ago, people told me I was crazy. They said I was committing “career suicide.” They said no one would ever hire me again and after traveling for so long. Luckily, I didn’t care what people thought and I did what I wanted to do. I traveled and cycled my way around SE Asia, New Zealand and Australia for 3 years and eventually settled in Koh Samui, Thailand after battling with my own illness and deciding to dedicate my life’s work to helping other people reverse disease and heal themselves naturally. It didn’t take long for people to change their tune and start to say, “How did you do it?” and “I want to live your life!”

The beaches of Tel Aviv are clean and quiet, especially during the week!

In Samui, I worked relentlessly day and night, learning and offering Iridology analyses, helping clients on their detox programs, teaching health and nutrition class, building a website from scratch all on my own and developing contacts all over SE Asia to present workshops and work in various countries. In 6 years, I don’t remember even having 1 day off. Clients came to my house at every hour of the day and night asking for detox support and health coaching services. Because I cared so much about each and every client’s health and success, I had a hard time learning how to say “No.”

The southern end of Tel Aviv beach looks over to historic Jaffa

Why I left Koh Samui, Thailand

I learned so much in the time that I was in Samui and I am forever grateful to all of my clients and colleagues for co-creating a fantastic destination for fasting, detox, yoga and health and wellness. And I LOVED living in Thailand. But eventually, it was simply time for a change. Not only did I feel like I wanted and needed new challenges in my life, but I was also craving a “regular” environment where people worked hard all week and then had time to enjoy their life on the weekends, just like everyone else. I realized that I wasn’t really helping my clients if I left nothing for myself. I knew that I needed to have time fill my “cup” too and also to make time for a loving relationship. And ok, I imagined a world where I could simply eat a meal in a restaurant where no one would approach me to show me a picture of their shit (yes, that happened a lot!) and then I realized, I think it might be time to leave Koh Samui!

In Tel Aviv, you can find fresh juice and smoothie bars everywhere, year-round

Why I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel

In the 2 years before leaving Samui, I traveled a lot and I visited many places, including Dubai and Israel. I knew I wanted a warm climate and plenty of fresh, organic foods available year-round as well as a place that was near the beach. I first went to Israel to attend the Gabriel Cousens green juice fast, and I can honestly say that I fell in love with the place! The climate was just perfect and the desert foods were such a welcomed and exciting change to my diet. For a raw foodie, Israel is a really easy place to live. I went on to visit Israel another 3 times and on my last trip, I met my boyfriend, an Israeli. Suddenly, I had a lot more interest in the idea of moving to Israel!

A delicious Acai Bowl from the juice stand at Ben Gurion and Dizengoff, Tel Aviv

My boyfriend wound up coming back to Thailand with me and we stayed there together for a few months before I finally packed up my bags and left. It was a very silent tip-toe departure mainly because I didn’t want to answer the questions, “Why?” and “Where will you go?” before I even knew the answers myself. We decided to take our time traveling and exploring some areas of the world that I considered moving to including Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador. After more than 1 year of traveling, we just didn’t find exactly what we were looking for: beach, organic food, nice people, good friends, high speed internet and enough safety to go for a run or walk on my own.

You can find organic produce at farmer’s markets in Tel Aviv or better yet, get it delivered to your door!

We arrived to Israel in July 2013 and since then, we’ve been slowly settling into life here. We live in Tel Aviv, 300m from the beach and a 3-minute walk from an organic market. We receive an organic CSA food delivery every week to our door, we have friends, and every day I can walk or run for miles right along the Mediterranean Sea.

The Yin and Yang

It’s definitely a unique cultural experience to live in Israel. Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you live in Israel if you are not Jewish?” or “How could you choose to live in such a dangerous place?” (In the same way that you don’t have to be Hindu to live in Bali and you don’t have to be Buddhist to live in Thailand, you also don’t have to be Jewish to live in Israel.)

The port of Tel Aviv is lined with cafes all along the Mediterranean Sea

I can say that in general, the city of Tel Aviv is very safe and not reflective of what you see on the news. There is a very large gay community in Tel Aviv. Recently, the city itself was voted #1 for nightlife by Lonely Planet. In the last 2 years, there has been a huge vegan movement that has swept over the city and most restaurants now offer a regular Meatless Monday dish on the menu. There are a lot of young people living here, it’s right on the beach and you can walk or ride a bike anywhere you need to go.

In short, I think the citizens here just want peace but the government leaders can’t seem to agree. Isn’t that the case pretty much everywhere in the world?

You can walk or cycle for miles along the footpath next to Tel Aviv beach

As much as there is conflict in certain areas of Israel, in other areas you can experience such amazing waves of transformation, spirituality, light, consciousness, and love. Next to the dark there is always light. Next to yang, you must have yin. If you come to Israel and focus on the yin, you can feel a deep spiritual awareness like something you have never felt before.

Favorite Foods

If you love healthy food, then you already have the best reason ever to visit Israel. Everywhere here you can find large vegan salads and fresh juices. You can even order green smoothies at some juice bars too! There is plenty of organic food and also great Middle Eastern food like tahini, hummus, grilled eggplant (baladi), parsley salad (tabouleh), lentils and rice (mujadara) and tons of other vegan and vegetarian options.

Fresh olives alone are a reason to visit Israel!

Did I mention the dates? Yes, truly raw food heaven! And you can taste them for free!

A warm climate means many restaurants are outdoor in Israel – this one is just opening for the day

Nothing is Permanent!

I’m now enjoying set working hours and designated days off every week and feeling much more balance between my work and private life than I did while living in Koh Samui, Thailand. I enjoy living near the beach and I am proud to say that we now eat 100% organic food at home. They always say that when we trust and let go of fear, the universe falls into place and that’s exactly what happened to me when I got a new book deal within 1 week of arriving to Israel last year! So, will I stay in Israel forever? Or will I be off to a new destination and another adventure? Well, you’re going to have to stay tuned because I have no idea! One thing I do know is nothing is permanent in life; you just have to enjoy every day as it comes!

More on Traveling Raw:

Raw Zucchini Rolls with Walnut Pesto and Cashew Cheese: Recipe

Are you looking for something different than another salad? Or looking to bring an eye-catching and mouth-watering dish to your next raw food potluck or healthy picnic? Try this recipe for Raw Zucchini Rolls and your friends and family will simply be amazed at how delicious healthy food can be. And of course, it’s gluten-free!

Raw Zucchini Rolls with Tomato Sauce, Cashew Cheese and Walnut Pesto – it’s easy to make!

I actually threw this dish together with what I had at home one day not using any recipe at all. That’s the beauty of learning how to cook – once you know the basics, you can use your creativity to make just about anything you want! My goal was to have a nice finger-food raw food platter. I saw that I had a lot of organic zucchini, so I said, hmmmm…I can make zucchini rolls, now what to put inside? First I made the tomato sauce and it was yummy, but I felt like it needed more texture. So, I made the walnut pesto. Then, I decided to top it off with some smooth and creamy raw cashew nut cheese and this gorgeous gourmet-looking raw pasta dish was born!

You can make this yourself at home. You will need either a blender or a mini-food processor, about 3-4 large organic zucchinis and the following ingredients:

Walnut Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup raw organic walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup organic fresh basil leaves (or cilantro)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of Himalayan Salt

Raw Tomato Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1-2 raw garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. organic dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. organic dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. organic cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. raw organic honey (optional)
  • Dash of Himalayan Salt

Raw Cashew Cheese Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic raw unsalted cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of organic cumin powder
  • Dash of organic cayenne pepper
  • Dash of Himalayan Salt

How To Make a Raw Zucchini Rolls

1. Make the Walnut Pesto: Add the ingredients into a mini food processor or blender and pulse several times until the mixture is course but uniform in texture. Set aside in a glass container, covered and refrigerated for at least 2-3 hours to marinate.

2. Make the Tomato Sauce: Add the ingredients into a mini food processor or blender and pulse several times until the mixture is course but uniform in texture. Set aside in a glass container, covered and refrigerated for at least 2-3 hours to marinate.

3. Make the Cashew Cheese: Add the ingredients into a mini food processor or blender and blend for 1-2 minutes until smooth in texture. Set aside in a glass container, covered and refrigerated for at least 2-3 hours to marinate.

4. When you are ready to serve, prepare the zucchini strips: Peel the outer skin of each zucchini (the skin can have a bitter taste but also looks more like real “pasta” without the skin). Then use a peeler, mandolin or knife to cut the zucchini into flat strips.

5. Using one zucchini strip at a time, place 1 spoonful of tomato sauce and 1 spoonful of walnut pesto on the strip, then roll the strip, securing it with a toothpick. Top each zucchini roll with a dollop of cashew cheese and a small sliver of fresh basil leaf for decoration.

6. Serve on a plate of lettuce, with loving intention to share the gift of good health!

Note: If you are vegan, you can replace the raw organic honey with agave nectar or a dash of organic stevia powder.

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

More on Raw Food:

Do you need to eat 100% raw food for success? How much raw food is best?

Recently the New York Times ran an article in their online blog section entitled “Growing Up on Raw Foods” where the author discussed whether or not it is safe to raise children on a 100% raw food diet. I found this article to be very interesting for a number of reasons and I am so happy that it highlights some important factors to consider when transitioning to a raw food or vegan diet.

How much raw food do you need to eat for success?

Getting Iron and B12 on Vegan or Raw Foods

First, the author points out that children who eat a vegan or raw food diet have higher risk of anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency. As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of eating dark leafy green vegetables, which in my opinion, are the most important food to add to any diet, whether it be a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, Paleo, diabetic, heart healthy or weight loss diet. In fact, I wrote an article called My Boyfriend Followed my Raw Food Diet and Got Anemia to try and get people thinking about eating more leafy greens for a good vegan source of iron. B12 is also a valid concern (and actually meat eaters are often deficient in B12 too due to low absorption); for that I always recommend a high quality B12 supplement. Note: I do not recommend liquid B12 supplements because many people develop gum sensitivity and/or nerve pain in the teeth from B12 in liquid form.

Accepting your % of raw food

But, the highlight of this article for me was to read about how some well-known raw foodists are changing their 100% raw food status and are eating more cooked food in their diet:

“Some longtime raw-food evangelists are rethinking their devotion. Jinjee Talifero, who runs a raw-food education company with her husband, Storm, in Santa Barbara, Calif., was 100 percent raw for most of the last 20 years, until about a year ago, when financial and other considerations made it difficult to continue feeding their five children, ages 6 to 19, that way. “It was always like a borderline thing to keep enough weight on them,” she said, and getting proteins from cashews and almonds was proving too expensive.

Her children also ran up against social problems. “They were socially isolated, ostracized and simply left out,” said Ms. Talifero, who now incorporates cooked food in the family’s diet.

Sergei Boutenko, 29, a filmmaker in Ashland, Ore., ate only raw from 9 to 26, and for years his family preached the virtues of the diet. But, he said, “there was this constant hunger,” and the raw children he met seemed “underdeveloped and stunted.”

He now eats about 80 percent raw, with occasional meat and dairy. “When it takes 15 hours to make a raw food lasagna that wipes out two days of your life, it’s better to just make a vegan or vegetarian lasagna and move on with your day,” he said.”

The Daily Mail UK website had an article on raw food recently where Australian raw food advocate and follower of a fruitarian or 80-10-10 diet Freelee the Banana Girl explained that she remains ‘raw until four’ – meaning she eats no cooked or heated food until 4pm.

These articles make me so happy because finally, the raw food world seems to be letting go of the 100% perfect raw food pedestal. Even Gabriel Cousens (author of Conscious Eating) says that you can get the same results with eating an 80% raw food diet as you can with 100% raw food, but it will just take you a little longer to get there.

A high raw food diet is usually more than 2/3 or 66% raw food, and 80% is excellent

The conclusion: It’s ok to eat a high raw food diet, as long as you focus on quality of food and:

  • Choose organic fruit and veggies wherever possible
  • Prepare your food with loving intention
  • Avoiding processed foods and chemical food additives
  • Eat cooked food without guilt (because you are 100% human!)
  • Cook your food in healthy ways without heated oils, frying or charring the food

Remember, balance is the key to success. As Dr. Bernard Jensen says, “One cup of coffee won’t kill you, but one glass of orange juice won’t cure you either.”

What’s my % of RAW?

I was 100% for 2 years until I started traveling more and then I dropped down to 90% raw to accommodate my schedule, eating plain steamed veggies, an occasional plain baked potato or organic brown rice. After 8 years on the raw food path, I now sit comfortably at a high raw food diet which means I eat 85-100% raw food. My daily diet consists of green smoothies, green juices, huge salads, sprouts, nuts, seeds, fresh wheatgrass shots, homemade sauerkraut, kombucha and occasionally some organic cooked black beans, chickpeas, steamed vegetables, veggie soup with homemade broth, organic brown rice or red quinoa. I mostly follow the Hippocrates Diet or Ann Wigmore style of eating. Technically speaking, I am not a vegan because I do eat raw organic honey and other bee products like royal jelly on occasion. I made some mistakes with my raw food diet nutritionally along the way, and I’m going to reveal all my lessons learned in a new ebook, so stay tuned!

If you’re going to keep your new diet habits as a healthy way of living for life, it has to be a sustainable for life. Many experts agree that you have to eat at least 50% raw food to start seeing and feeling results (more energy, improved skin, better digestion, anti-aging & cellular repair, reversal of disease). Whether you’re eating 60 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent raw food, the most important thing to allow yourself to be is 100% human. As you go through the years of your life, your percentage of raw food may increase or decrease, and that’s okay! No matter what, the percentage of raw food that you are eating should feel right for you.

> Are you trying to transition to a raw food, vegan or vegetarian diet and feeling overwhelmed with all of the different opinions out there?

> Are you struggling emotionally and socially with changing your diet and feeling isolated or confused?

> Are you eating a healthy raw food or vegan diet and still feel tired, have trouble sleeping, or suffer from skin problems, hair loss, brittle nails, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, infertility, or dental problems?

> Do you want to change your diet but simply don’t know where or how to begin?

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

To read the New York Times article in its entirety, go here: Growing Up on Raw Foods

To read the Daily Mail UK article in its entirety, go here: ‘I lost 3st eating vast “mono meals”: Controversial diet guru who consumes 5lb of potatoes in one go says single-food feasts are key to weight loss and health

More on Raw Food:

Get Affordable Organic Food with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Vegetable Home Delivery

Want to save time and money and get more affordable organic fruits and vegetables? Then check into finding a local CSA for organic home delivery in your area. Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is a way to connect consumers directly to organic farmers. With no store or “middle man” in between, you get more affordable produce that’s fresh and in season.

Get local organic produce delivered to your door & save money too!

How does a CSA work?

Basically, you invest in a “share” of the harvest, meaning you pay in advance for regular deliveries of organic, fresh, seasonal produce from local farmers. Every program varies in what it offers, when and where it is delivered and how much a share costs. Typically, you choose between a “small box” or a “large box” which is delivered weekly on a certain day (say every Tuesday or Thursday). The contents of the box will vary depending on what’s being harvested that week. For example, this week (in summer) in Israel I received: organic tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, dill, parsley, beets, green chives, mint, pumpkin, spinach, Swiss chard, daikon, zucchini and watermelon. Other times I will get garlic, onion, lemons, papaya, apples, melon or kohlrabi with a mix of fresh greens that also vary depending on the time of year. On average, 1 large box will last me about 4-5 days. I usually need to supplement with my own store-bought organic fresh fruit because admittedly, you usually get more veggies than fruit in a CSA box. With the CSA that I belong to, there is also the option to order additional items, including local organic eggs, tahini, honey and olive oil (I don’t order any additional items but I know a lot of people who do). The box is delivered directly from the farm to your door.

The benefits of eating organic food

Organic food is higher in minerals because the soil in which its grown is a much better quality than the over-farmed, depleted and toxic soil you find in industrial farming. Without any hazardous pesticides either, organic food can decrease your risk of allergies, rashes, inflammation and asthma and keep your immune system strong. This is especially important for growing children. Organic food is also not irradiated or genetically modified (GMO), two more processes and man-handling added to the food supply today which can be harmful to your health.

And, my favorite thing about organic food? It tastes way better!!! My fresh organic produce is never bitter or bland. And a better natural taste has to be better for you. Once you try it, you will see for yourself!

The saddest thing I find about organic food is people seem to only invest their money in it at certain times in their life: mainly, when they’re pregnant, sick or have cancer. Outside of that, it can be really hard to convince anyone to spend money on organic veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds and/or grains. Even vegan, raw food, vegetarian and gluten-free folks will often turn their head at the added cost of organic. But why wait until you are sick or pregnant to start eating the best food for your body? If you eat organic food for years before your pregnancy, don’t you think you will be higher in minerals, less toxic and therefore increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby? And perhaps if you invest in some high quality food now, you won’t ever get sick and if you do, you will recover much more quickly. If you put better fuel in your car, it will run better and last longer. Well, let’s add some extra miles to your life and keep your internal engine working great with high-quality organic food! You deserve the very best.

The benefits of using CSA delivery

1. You increase the amount of organic food in your diet.
2. It’s more affordable and fresher than buying organic produce in stores.
3. The fruit and vegetables are locally grown and in season.
4. You’re supporting small local businesses and farmers in your area.
5. You save time and hassle by enjoying home delivery.
6. You naturally get more variety in your diet.
7. You can experiment and try new veggies that you might not otherwise buy (like daikon or kohlrabi).

In fact, I can’t think of any reason not to join a local CSA! To get started, research your local community by googling “CSA organic delivery + your county, city or state” and see what you find. You can also inquire at your local health food store or Wholefoods market.

A good list of Organic Home Delivery farms in USA: Organic Consumers Directory List for USA

In Israel, there are 2 popular CSA services for Tel Aviv: Chubeza and Maggie’s Garden (I personally have tried both and now am happy with Chubeza). Find a complete list of Organic Home Delivery farms in Israel, including Jerusalem, the north to Herzilya and south to Ashkelon here: Times of Israel article on Eating Organic in Israel using local CSA

If you’re using a local CSA in your community, please list the link in the comments below with your city, state and country below and let’s share the good times of eating more natural, whole and pure food! I’m thoroughly enjoying a healthy week with yummy green smoothies, juices, raw food salads and desserts all with beautiful vibrant organic food!

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

More on Organic Food:

What’s the Best Juicer? How to Choose a Juicer

Buying a juicer is a commitment to actually start juicing. Believe me, I wish there was a self-cleaning juicer out there too, but there isn’t! I consider this a more advanced stage of healthy food prep because of the added time and effort it takes to make juice. For that reason, I encourage you to really think about what you’re most likely to use on a daily basis. Do you have extra time to prepare ingredients for juice and to clean the juicer? Or, are you more likely to blend a green smoothie that takes less than 5 minutes to make and can be stored in advance?

I recommend that you make green smoothies for at least 6 months before you even think about advancing to the world of green juices. When you’re comfortable with the green smoothie recipes and ingredients, it will be much easier for you to make the leap into juice.

When you’re ready, the next step is to decide what juicer is right for you. And if that wasn’t enough, there are actually 2 different types of juicers. If you’re not ready then take this information in as a side note, to be used at a later date, but don’t worry about the details too much now. Below, I explain the different types of juicers.

What to look for in a juicer

Features to look for in a juicer

With juicers, there are two main types: masticating and centrifugal. Those terms describe how the ingredients are mashed, spun and/or pressed and actually separated between a fiber and liquid form.

The other main feature to look for in a juicer is the size of the shaft where you place the ingredients for juicing. You will see some juicers listed as big mouth or wide mouth; that means you can take an entire apple or pear and easily fit the whole fruit in the juicer shaft as opposed to cutting it into quarter-size pieces and placing it in a smaller shaft. While it may seem that this feature makes it faster or easier to juice, it doesn’t change the cleaning time which is the most time-consuming part of the process.

Masticating

Masticating juicers are the best juicers for making green juice because the slow-press motor can easily squeeze the juice out of high-fiber leafy greens. Sometimes referred to as cold-press juicers, masticating juicers operate at a slow speed and produce a higher amount of juice. Masticating juicers can juice fruits, veggies, leafy greens and wheatgrass. They are usually sold online or in more specialty stores and they come at a higher price tag.

Centrifugal

Centrifugal juicers are readily available at normal retail outlets and are the most inexpensive type of juicer to purchase. With a centrifugal juicer, the ingredients are pulverized through a fast-spinning blade that extracts the juice through a strainer. These machines can’t handle leafy greens, wheatgrass, sprouts or herbs and are better suited for fresh and veggies. Because of the faster spin, they make less juice per volume of ingredients.

Top picks for juicers

Omega

The Omega 8004 is my personal top pick of juicers for making green juice. It’s a masticating juicer, and in my opinion, is easier to clean than other masticating brands or models. The 8004 has a great motor and can also juice wheatgrass (see below). Price starts at $199.95.

The Omega Juicer is a GREAT value for your money and an excellent juicer

Cuisinart

The Cuisinart Compact Juice Extractor is a centrifugal juicer that comes in at an affordable price with a nice design and a reliable brand name. Priced at $89.00.

Cuisinart Compact Juicer is a great value and a good starter juicer

Hamilton Beach

The Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor is also a centrifugal juicer with a nice clean, simple design. The fantastic price makes this juicer a great option if you’re on a budget. Priced at $59.85.

Good value for your money with this Hamilton Beach Juicer

Keeping your Juicer Clean

My advice for how to clean your juicer is this: Do not drink your juice until after you clean the juicer! If you drink your juice immediately, you’re much more likely to move onto something else and forget about the juicer until later. By then, all the pulp will be stuck to the juicer parts making a bigger job to scrub everything clean.

Your best bet: As soon as you finish juicing, unplug the juicer to make sure that the power is off. Take the juicer apart and rinse all the pieces with a sponge, warm water and dish detergent. Add the juice pulp to your compost pile if you have one. Once your juicer is on the drying rack, you can enjoy your freshly made juice! This is a house rule in my kitchen and it really works.

Choosing a wheatgrass juicer

If you’re interested in juicing your own wheatgrass at home, you’ll need a masticating juicer. The Omega 8004 is a great model for making fresh wheatgrass. Other options include the Champion juicer, and the Hurom vertical slow-press juicer.

Do you need to juice, and should you be juicing?

That’s a great question! Find out more about whether or not you even need to juice here.

If you're ready for juicing, this is the juicer for you!

If you’re ready for juicing, this is the juicer for you!

Looking for a new blender too? Check out my guide on Battle of the Blenders: Which one is best?

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health & Nutritional Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

More on Juicing and Smoothies:

Do you need to juice, and should you be juicing?

With all the hype about green smoothies for fitness, health and detox, you might be wondering: do I need to be drinking green juice or fresh juice too? And, if I only have time for one, which is better: blending or juicing?

I personally make a green juice for breakfast and a green smoothie for lunch every day and I love them both! But there are some real differences between blending a smoothie in a blender and making a juice in a juicer. Find out how and why below.

What are the health benefits of drinking fresh juice?

Juicing FAQs

Why is juicing important?

Juicing is important because it gives you the opportunity to high-boost on vitamins and minerals. In one meal, you wouldn’t normally have the capacity to eat ½ bunch celery, 10 carrots, 8 large kale leaves, an entire handful of parsley, 2 apples, a lemon, and a cucumber. Take all of those ingredients, put them in the juicer, and you’ve just ingested all the same nutrients in a few easy sips.

What are the pros/ benefits of juicing? Any cons (to one’s health and otherwise)?

The reality of living a busy lifestyle and not having time to prepare food at home today means that most people are not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables and are therefore nutritionally deficient. Juicing is a way to combat this, and so that’s definitely a pro. The con is that it takes time to prepare and it’s takes even more time to clean the juicer. Most people don’t own a juicer, so it’s also an added expense to have to buy another appliance. For those reasons, I usually recommend blending smoothies in a blender. In a blender, the fiber remains intact and so you just drink everything. Blending is definitely more practical and easier to continue doing long-term. Any new habit has to be a healthy habit for life.

Who should juice? Why? Who, if anyone, should not?

Just to be clear on terms, juice is made in a juicer. The juicer separates the fiber from the liquid and leaves only a liquid to drink (the juice). If you take those same ingredients and put them in a blender, the fiber will remain intact and you will have a smoothie, which is thicker and more filling than a juice. Traditionally people think of a smoothie having milk or yogurt, but you can easily make a healthy smoothie with fruits, greens and 1 cup of water. You may have heard of ‘Green Smoothies’…well, that’s what it is: fruits and greens blended in a blender. I think everyone should have 1 Green Smoothie per day.

So, who should juice? Anyone who is sick is already nutritionally out of balance and most likely deficient. Ideally they should be high-boosting with nutrient dense foods to try to get the body back into balance, so a daily juice would be great for them. For diabetics, fresh fruit juices are usually too high in sugar and in that case, make only green juices instead, like cucumber, kale, lemon, ginger and parsley.

Take the time to make a green juice – it’s an investment in your health!

Is there a limit to how much juicing one should do? Is there such thing as excessive juicing?

I usually recommend adding fresh leafy greens (like celery greens or boy choy) to any fruit juice just to balance the natural sugars with the greens. People can do 100% juice fasts, ie drinking only freshly made juice, for up to 60 days at a time with no ill effects. For the average person, having 1 fresh juice or smoothie per day is a great addition to their daily diet. Think of getting your vitamins fresh from Mother Earth and not a pill!

Should juicing replace entire meals or be a supplement?

It really depends on the individual, their energy levels and their goals. The average person can have a green smoothie for breakfast as a meal replacement because the fiber in the smoothie keeps them from being hungry and it’s a great way to start the day with fiber, alkalinity and minerals and chlorophyll from the greens. I work one-on-one with my clients to determine the best meal plan for them.

Is juicing the same as detoxing? If so, are the terms interchangeable?

Juicing is not the same as detoxing. One glass of fresh apple, ginger, lemon juice is not going to put you into detox mode (although it will high-boost your mineral and vitamin reserve). The process of detoxification starts when the body has been eating light raw fresh fruits or drinking only fresh juice for at least 36 hours. If you continue drinking only juice at the 36-hour mark, then you are going into ‘detox,’ and that means your body starts using the enzymes it would normally use to digest food and directs the energy inward to internal housekeeping. Think of your organs having extra paperwork and a backlog of work on their desks. Suddenly, no more papers are coming in so everyone has a chance to catch up on their jobs. That’s detox. If you are eating refined sugar, bread, fried foods or drinking coffee and alcohol, you are still adding more work for those organs and no detox will occur.

When and How to Juice

Initially you may enjoy having fresh juice on the weekends when you have more time to prep the ingredients and clean the juicer. You may also find yourself making juice when you’re ill as a natural recovery remedy. On a daily basis, making a green smoothie is faster and easier, and because of that, you’re much more likely to keep doing it every day. This article covers the key points in making juice and what equipment you need. For more information on making fruit smoothies or green smoothies in a blender, go to this link.

Experiment with different fresh & organic ingredients in your juice

Making juice is more labor intensive and a bigger commitment in terms of time and money for a few reasons:

  • You need a juicer. A juicer is a different appliance than a blender. It’s an added expense if you don’t have one already.
  • You need more ingredients to make one 16-ounce juice than you do for a 16-ounce smoothie.
  • You need to spend more money on the extra ingredients required. It takes time to cut up the extra ingredients too.
  • Cleaning a juicer takes more time than cleaning a blender because a juicer has several parts (unlike a blender that just has a pitcher and a lid).

On average, it may take 6-8 minutes to clean your juicer in addition to 5-6 minutes of prep plus 2-3 minutes of juicing, for a total of at least 17 minutes to make a juice. Compare that to a 5-minute green smoothie and the difference really adds up!

How long does a juice stay fresh?
Without any fiber, juice oxidizes very quickly and that means you need to drink it immediately after making it. If not, the juice will start to go off and in just a few hours, it can go bad. This is a major difference between green smoothies and green juices.

Making a green juice

Besides cutting up some extra ingredients and cleaning a few additional parts of the juicer, it’s really not difficult at all to make a green juice. One thing that is important for green juices is the type of juicer you have. (Note: If you’re interested in juicing your own wheatgrass at home, you need a masticating juicer. The Omega 8004 juicer is a great model for making fresh green juice and wheatgrass juice. Other options include the Champion juicer and the Hurom vertical slow-press juicer.) I explain more on that in my article about Choosing a Juicer.

A green juice is a high-boost of minerals, vitamins and chlorophyll

Green juice recipes are very similar to smoothie recipes with just a few exceptions. The following are ingredients not to use in a juice:

  • Banana, dates, nuts, seeds and avocado – Due to their high density, they don’t really have any liquid to juice.
  • Superfood powders – You can add your favorite superfood powder, ground flaxseed or chia seeds to your glass of juice and stir just before drinking, but you don’t want to add it to the juicer. With powders, there’s nothing to juice!

Fruits and greens with high water content, like cucumber, orange, lemon, apple, pear, pineapple, watermelon and celery are great options for juice ingredients. You can also add carrot, beet, daikon, ginger, fennel or leek. My favorite greens to add to juice are parsley, cilantro, basil, kale, Swiss chard or collard greens. Organic fruits and greens are best, but do the best you can with what you have when starting out. A non-organic juice is still better for you than a frozen dinner or fast-food lunch!

Tip
Save the stems from your large green leaves like kale, spinach, Swiss chard or collard greens after making a green smoothie. Store them wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. When you’re ready to make a juice, add the stems to the juicer. That way, the stems don’t go to waste and you’re getting the added nutritional benefit of the minerals, vitamins and antioxidants from them in your juice.

If you're ready for juicing, this is the juicer for you!

If you’re ready for juicing, this is the juicer for you!

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet via phone or Skype!

More on Colon Cleansing:

Raw Detox Salad Recipe

Eating raw organic food can be so much fun! Check out this gorgeous salad that took only a few minutes to prepare…and it’s full of detox foods to make it a mini-cleansing meal!

Use the healing power of raw foods to create a fantastic detox salad

For the salad add: Chopped rocket leaves, grated carrot, chopped cucumber, fresh mint, parsley, sunflower seeds and top with homemade raw sauerkraut. If you can’t find rocket leaves, then just use fresh chopped spinach or romaine lettuce.

Make the dressing with: Chopped garlic, crushed papaya seeds, extra virgin olive oil, raw organic honey (optional), fresh lemon, a dash of cayenne pepper and Himalayan salt to taste. The papaya seeds should be fresh, from a ripe papaya. I usually set aside some papaya seeds after eating the papaya. Store the seeds in a small jar in the fridge for up to one week. Use a few seeds each time you make this recipe.

What makes this a DETOX salad?

  • Fresh parsley: Kidney cleanse
  • Cayenne, olive oil & lemon: Liver cleanse
  • Garlic & papaya seeds: Anti-parasitic foods (kills germs)
  • Sauerkraut: Natural probiotic (good bacteria)
  • Rocket & cucumber: Skin cleanse
  • Sunflower seeds: Good for glandular system
  • Raw honey: Immune booster
  • Fiber: Colon cleanse

Let Your Food be Your Medicine…..Wow, it’s really true!

Click here to learn how to make fermented cabbage and raw sauerkraut. In a temperate climate, it takes as little as 4 days!

What is DETOX?

The highly refined foods that you eat every day, including sugar and white flour, make you susceptible to intestinal problems, and possible diseases. The average diet today is heavily loaded with chemical additives, flavorings, coloring agents, toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other toxic chemicals which overburden our bodies. Add to that work and family-related stress, indigestion, illnesses, constipation and sedentary lifestyles, and you have a recipe for an unhealthy colon and an overweight and tired body. Many health conditions are caused by the combination of processed foods, low fiber diets and poor evacuation of waste.

Periods of abstinence from solid food – a ritual performed since ancient times – can allow the body to “cleanse and purify” or “detox”, that is, to remove toxins, excess fat and even parasites caused by years of ingesting processed food, excess food, refined sugar and wheat and even fast food that eventually impairs the normal functioning and our body’s elimination.

During fasting, large amounts of these accumulated metabolic wastes and poisons are eliminated through the cleansing ability of all the organs of elimination – the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs and skin.

Eating more detox foods in your regular diet is a way to have a “mini-cleanse” on a regular basis and that helps the elimination organs keep us with their daily housework. Eat a detox salad for lunch instead of pizza or Chinese food and you will have better digestion, less headaches or insomnia, improve your skin and increase energy levels, simply by choosing better fuel for your body. A raw food diet is a detox on its own. You can continue for 1, 3 or 7 days on a 100% low fat raw food diet as a way to really give the body a good natural cleanse from the inside-out.

For more on how to start a raw food diet, how to do a detox at home or what minerals you may specifically be deficient in, book a private health consult with me via Skype.

How to Book Your Health Coaching Session:

1. Take photos of your eyes with a digital camera.
2. Email the photos to me for approval.
3. We schedule a time to meet!

More on Raw Food:

How to Ferment Cabbage and Make Raw Sauerkraut

If you think that eating more fresh, natural raw food in your diet is too expensive, then this recipe is definitely for you! Making fermented foods at home is one of the most inexpensive ways to enjoy raw food. For optimal digestive health, we need to get good bacteria in gut on a regular basis. Antibiotics destroy all the bacteria in our system, both good and bad. Over time, this can lead to more imbalance in digestion function, absorption and elimination. Some experts even say that food allergies, autism and ADHD may be related to an imbalance of bacteria in the colon. Certainly many digestive diseases like colitis, diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease are caused in part by lack of good bacteria in the gut. Having the right balance of good bacteria helps to strengthen immune system, improve digestive health and long-term, can even prevent dis-ease. Probiotic, or good bacteria, literally means “for life.”

How to Make Raw Sauerkraut at home, a healthy naturally fermented food

How can we get good bacteria or “probiotics” back in the gut? The Western diet has virtually eliminated all traditionally fermented foods out of the diet, with the exception of yogurt. Store-bought yogurt is pasteurized, and usually contains added sugar, flavor and colorings. It’s also not a suitable option for vegans, and it’s expensive! Nowadays you will see Kombucha drink as a fermented raw food vegan option. Kombucha is fantastic, but it is also expensive at $6.00 per bottle. You may see sauerkraut for sale in supermarkets, but it’s already been pasteurized, so virtually all of the good bacteria has already been destroyed.

Not to worry! If you have just a few heads of cabbage, some salt and a few jars, you can easily make your own raw sauerkraut at home! It’s so easy to make that you will be wondering why you didn’t make it sooner! Cabbage is not expensive, and once the sauerkraut is made, you only need to add about 2 Tbsp. per day to your salad or veggies to get the good bacteria that your body needs. At that rate, 2 heads of cabbage could easily last up to 2 weeks for a family of 4. That’s some healthy savings!

What You Need: Raw cabbage, salt, a grater and jars

How to Make Homemade Raw Sauerkraut

Raw Sauerkraut: Ingredients

  • 2 medium-large organic green cabbage heads (or purple cabbage)
  • 1-1.5 Tablespoons Himalayan Salt or Pure Sea Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon caraway and/or mustard seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh dill (optional)
  • 2 organic carrots (optional)

Raw Sauerkraut: Equipment

  • Grater or Mandolin
  • Cutting Board and Knife
  • Large Mixing bowl
  • Wooden Mallet (optional)
  • Large widemouth canning jar (or extra large mason jars)
  • Small glass baby-food jar or small glass cup to fit inside the larger jar
  • Clean rock or other weights to fit inside the small jar (to weigh down the cabbage)
  • Old t-shirt or towel for covering the jar
  • Large plate to catch any overspill

Instructions

Clean all materials before starting. Fermentation can be a sensitive process, and if there is any soap residue in your jars or hand cream chemicals on your hands, the fermenting might not work. I prefer to wash everything with a 50/50 mix of tap water and boiled water. For safety reasons, I do not recommend using 100% boiled water. Be careful not to rinse your jars with only boiling water because the glass can crack. Add tap water first, then some boiled water. Swish everything around and rinse. Wash your hands well with clean water and no soap.

Shred the Cabbage. Peel off the leaves of the cabbage and set them aside for later. Grate the cabbage on the large grate side of the grater or use a mandolin to shred the cabbage. Be sure to use the safety mechanism on the mandolin!

Combine Cabbage and Salt. Place the shredded cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle some of the salt over top. If you have a wooden mallet, then start pounding the cabbage. If using only hands, then begin massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. In just a few minutes, you should start to see the cabbage becoming watery and limp – this is a good sign! You can add some shredded carrot at this stage too (optional).

Making Raw Sauerkraut: Use a wooden mallet and pound away!

Add the salt. Then start squeezing by hand…

As you squeeze the cabbage, it will start to soften and you should see liquid/water. Put the liquid and cabbage in a glass jar for fermenting, pushing out any air bubbles. You can also add fresh dill, whole mustard seeds or caraway seeds for flavor.

Pack Cabbage and Liquid into Jar. Use your hands to pack the cabbage into the jar, pressing out any air bubbles each time you add more. At this stage, you can add some fresh dill, caraway seeds or mustard seeds for flavor. Pour any excess liquid from the cabbage into the jar. When the jar is nearly full, place a few of the larger outer leaves to cover the surface of the sauerkraut. This helps keep the cabbage submerged.

Gently press out air bubbles. Place some large cabbage leaves on top and be sure that your cabbage is all covered by the liquid. If necessary, add a small amount of water to cover the cabbage.

Cover the Jar. Place your filled jar on a dish, cover it with an old t-shirt or towel and put it in a quiet place to happily start fermenting. Ideally, your jar will be on top on a cabinet or on a table where it will not be disturbed. The best place is away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F.

Place your sauerkraut on a dish or in a large bowl. Usually there will be liquid coming out of the jar as it ferments; this way any liquid escaping is caught and will not make a mess.

Finally, cover your sauerkraut with a towel or old t-shirt and keep it undisturbed. Check once a day, pushing out air bubbles and adding more water if needed. It should be ready in about 4 days.

Check Daily. Once a day, be sure to check your cabbage. Open the lid and push down the cabbage to release any air bubbles. If necessary, add a small amount of additional water and salt. By the 2nd day, the cabbage has usually been pressed down enough that there is some extra space in the jar. At that point, add the small baby-food jar or glass cup with rock inside to keep the cabbage submerged under water.

Taste after 4 days. Small batches of sauerkraut like this can be finished in as little as 4 days. On the 4th day, taste your cabbage. If you’re happy with the results, you can transfer your sauerkraut to the fridge where it will continue to ferment, although much more slowly. You can also keep it out to ferment for up to another 10 days, but you must check it every day, press out any air bubbles and add additional water and salt if necessary.

Note: It’s normal to see air bubbles coming through the cabbage during fermentation. When you press them down daily, you are eliminating the air space between the cabbage. In some cases if you forget a day, you may start to see mold, dark scum or smell a bad odor from the cabbage. If the scum can be skimmed off, then it’s ok to do so. If there is a bad smell or visible mold, I recommend to throw out the batch and start over.

When your sauerkraut is ready, put the large container in the fridge or transfer the sauerkraut to smaller jars and then refrigerate. Raw sauerkraut is a fermented product and will stay fresh for a few months. Once you open a jar and start eating it, it’s best to consume the sauerkraut within 30 days.

After 4 days, start tasting your batch. When you like the taste, you can transfer to smaller jars to put in fridge…or share with family and friends!

Making Large Batches of Sauerkraut

You can make much larger batches of sauerkraut in a ceramic fermentation crock, but the crocks are very expensive. It’s probably a good idea to try fermenting in glass mason jars first and see if you actually enjoy eating sauerkraut before making the investment in a crock. (One benefit of the large crock is that you don’t have to check it daily. The weights in the crock keep the air bubbles out.) Over time, if you find you want to make larger batches, then definitely consider making the leap.

How is Sauerkraut Fermented?

Raw sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. We can ferment cabbage thanks to the good bacteria that naturally exist on the surface of the cabbage leaves (and many other veggies too). Food becomes fermented when the “good” lactobacilli bacteria convert their sugars and starches into lactic acid. This is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. The lactic acid also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Sauerkraut contains high levels of glucosinolates. These compounds have been shown to have anti-cancer activity.

The diets of every traditional culture have included some kind of lacto-fermented food. Kimchi from Korea and cortido from Latin America are 2 examples of traditionally fermented vegetables made from lacto-fermentation. In Europe, people fermented sauerkraut, grape leaves, herbs, and root vegetables. Lacto-fermented veggies are nutrient-dense, enzyme rich, a raw food, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. And they taste yummy too! Fermented cabbage is one of my favorite foods for a mini-daily detox and a balanced raw food diet!

More on Fermented Foods:

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: The Raw Food Valley of Longevity… or Just Hype?

Ecuador is known as a top retirement destination for Americans due to the low cost of living and ease of getting residency, but did you know that it’s also a place for raw foodists and young international families interested in a more simple, natural way of living? Some raw food friends of mine recently moved to Vilcabamba, known to many as the “Valley of Longevity,” and after years of hearing about the place (especially after Mike Adams, Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes moved there), I decided to finally go for a visit and check it out for myself.

The main road entering Vilcabamba, Ecuador aka The Valley of Longevity

My boyfriend and I spent 2.5 months in Vilcabamba. We stayed at the Meditation Center in town for the first 2 weeks until we found a furnished house available for short-term rent. We found a place with gorgeous mountain views and a lot of space (2 bedrooms, an office loft, 2 full bathrooms, a large living area and kitchen) for $900 USD per month. It was less than a 10-minute walk from the center of town. This was perfect for us because we didn’t want a car and we could easily walk to town and buy whatever we needed.

Our home for 2 months…a gorgeous mountain retreat!

Shared pool for the small gated community…it was right next to our house

Open doors in the morning for an absolutely fantastic view of the mountains…close doors 4pm to minimize mosquitos!

Most of our time in Vilcabamba was spent preparing and focusing on the 21-day water fast that we did while there. This was our main goal in renting a house for 2 months – to take a break from all the traveling we’d done through Costa Rica, Guatemala and South America, and to have some quiet time surrounded by nature to fast and rest. What better place to do a detox than in the Valley of Longevity itself?

My first meal (pureed cucumber) after water fasting for 21 days…and NO worms! :)

Not to start things on the wrong side, but it has to be said: there are a lot of strange expats in Vilcabamba. You will definitely notice a weird vibe when you arrive to town. It’s a small place, everyone knows each other, and clearly you are the newcomer when you get there. We experienced a lot of long uncomfortable stares from the local “gringos”, to the point where we even googled something like “why is everyone so weird in Vilcabamba” and we actually had a good laugh when we read several travel blogs that reported having the same experience as us. There is definitely a lot of conspiracy theory talk going around about…well, just about everything. It’s almost impossible not to overhear at least one major conspiracy theory conversation per day, especially if you go the the Juice Factory, the main hang-out in the town square where all the gringos converge for a juice, smoothie, salad or the ongoing end-of-the-word discussion. I even heard a story about how the Jesus on the cross was fake, and that the real Jesus was hiding under a pyramid in Egypt… Well, who knows? It could be true!

Odd conversations aside, the Juice Factory has an awesome juice, wheatgrass and smoothie menu!

Admittedly we were a bit disappointed over the lack of normalcy in the people we met. It didn’t take us long to start keeping to ourselves, putting our energy into our preparations for fasting and trying to be friendly as much as we could. Over the course of 2.5 months, we slowly started to meet more gringos who lived further outside of town or who simply kept more to themselves as well, and by the time we were ready to leave, we did actually make some really nice and interesting friends. My best advice in experiencing Vilca is to have an open mind and be patient. There are some really cool people living there; it just might take a bit of time to find them.

People aside, there are a few key practical things that bring expats to Vilcabamba to live. One is the cheap cost of living. Most people are renting houses for about $300 per month. Our house was considered to be very expensive, but we wanted to be in a gated community for safety and security. The other main attraction is the ability to grow your own organic food because there is plenty of land and plenty of water. There are also some people looking to live in a healthy and natural healing environment with a strong sense of community, and although it’s not fully there yet, this movement in Vilcabamba is definitely growing. And many people just want to be “away from it all,” living as far away as possible from the television, media, and “Big Brother” feeling in the Western world.

A 5-star view from our veranda, in Vilcabamba Ecuador

That’s the short of it. Here’s my full list of the Pros and Cons of Vilcabamba:

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Pros

1. Affordable Organic Food. This was a main attraction for me. Every Saturday there is a great organic market run by Kitzia Kokopelmana where you can find all kinds of fruits, veggies and greens at fantastic prices. Of course, if you stay longer, you would have the option to grow your own. There are many expats selling non-GMO seeds and swapping crops with each other.

Organic produce from Kitzia’s weekly market in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

2. Affordable Housing. There are many options available. Check the notice board at the Juice Factory for postings. We also really enjoyed staying at the Meditation Center in town; it has a great outdoor kitchen and very clean rooms. Bernie, the owner, is a really nice guy and he also happens to be a real estate agent in case you are looking for a home to buy!

3. Nice locals. The Ecuadorian people are very sweet and we really enjoyed speaking our broken Spanish when we could.

4. International delivery is ok. I met some people who ordered supplements from Vitacost and everything seemed to arrive ok. I had a few packages sent from USA that arrived safely (it does take longer than other places, up to 3 weeks for airmail). This becomes very important when you actually decide to live in a place.

5. Relatively Safe. More on this below, but for the most part when comparing to Central America or Colombia, I would consider Ecuador to be much more politically stable and crime-wise a safer choice.

6. Mountain views, rainbows, peaceful feeling. Aren’t we all hoping for more of that in life?

Nice rainbow view from our house in Vilcabamba Ecuador

7. Good climate. It’s not too hot or too cold year-round. You don’t need air-conditioning or heat and that means more fresh mountain air and negative ions for your health!

8. Easy to Get Residency. If you have $25,000 USD in an Ecuadorian bank or the equivalent value in property in Ecuador, you can apply for a resident visa and stay permanently. There seems to be a lots of hoops and paperwork to make this happen, but many people succeed and it’s certainly a reason why a lot of expats move to Ecuador.

9. Many Interesting Activities. Check the notice boards and ask around; you’ll quickly see that there are a lot of good workshops and activities being offered on everything from energy healing to women’s circles to essential oil lessons and much more.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Cons

1. Slow internet. This is true for all of Vilcabamba and can really be a problem if you work online (like me!).

2. Expensive Internet. We were shocked how much we paid for a few mice to spin us a connection….it was $84 USD per month!

3. Household items are Very Expensive. Things like pillows, sheets, kitchenware, plastic bins, shower curtains, etc. are extremely expensive in Ecuador. We were really shocked to see this because everyone told us how cheap it was! A plastic bucket could easily cost $5 or $6. That really adds up when you are buying for an entire home!

4. Superfoods and Supplements are Extremely Expensive. So much for the cheap cost of living! Once you get outside of the inexpensive rent, things can start to become expensive in Ecuador. While some superfoods and herbal supplements are available at the Juice Factory, they are really expensive, up to 3x the normal price. Your best bargain at the Juice Factory is the green juice shot made from wheatgrass, kale, parsley, fennel, celery and whatever other local organic greens are in season. Dennis, the owner of the Juice Factory, is a super-nice guy and very helpful by the way. It’s simply difficult to find a good source of organic raw nuts, seeds and dried basic raw food essentials.

5. Difficult to Find Work/Make Money. This is really a problem for a lot of gringos that don’t have an outside source of income. We saw many people trying to sell homemade raw food cookies, cakes and chocolates and hippie jewelry as a way to make money. The high cost of raw food ingredients makes the profit margin for food very low. Your best bet is to arrive with money or have a way to make money outside of Ecuador.

The town’s main square in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

6. Isolated. That can be a pro or a con depending on the individual! It’s a 1-hour drive to the nearest town, Loja, where you can find a large supermarket and the bigger shops. In Vilcabamba itself, there is really nothing but a few cafes and small shops selling essential items.

Not much to do in downtown Vilcabamba…it can be good but definitely isolating

7. Weird-vibes from certain Expat Locals can bring you down. As with any small town, there is a lot of gossip, rumors and even jealousy between gringos. This has a lot to do with #6 (isolated). If you’re prepared for this, you will be fine!

8. Increase in local crime, break-ins and robberies. This goes slightly against #5 of the Pros, but there I compare Ecuador to other countries in Central and South America. You are not likely to get robbed at gunpoint in Vilcabamba, and that is re-assuring. But, burglaries are on the rise. We heard of many break-ins while we were there; most occured while the residents were out to dinner and usually laptops, electronics and cash were stolen. Just before we arrived, there were at least 2 Western women who had been raped (in different incidents). It’s important to be careful. This is one of the main reasons why we chose to pay more money to live in a gated community. Definitely look at the security of your house before you decide to rent.

Vilcabamba can still be a great place to live and a positive experience as long as you stay street-smart and take advantage of all the good things it has to offer.

A lot of people ask me what I thought about Vilcabamba. Many young raw food, vegan and vegetarian couples and families consider moving there because of the ability to live relatively cheaply and still have access to organic food (most of the health-oriented people in Vilcabamba grow their own vegetables, fruits and greens). It’s not easy to describe my experience to others because everyone has different expectations when they travel to a new country to start a new life.

The house had a main living area, 2 separate bedrooms and an upstairs office/loft

Quiet bedroom and lots of nature, ideal for a long water fast…this place was really a perfect detox retreat!

This was the upstairs loft which I used as an office. Great place for meditation or yoga as well!

I really liked Vilcabamba for the few months that I was there, but long-term, I don’t think it’s the place for me, at least not at this stage in my life. I feel a very strong need and pull to be in the mainstream still, to help people understand how to read food labels and look for hidden additives in food, to teach more about raw food and detox, and to show that you don’t need to live in the faraway mountains in order to be healthy. Maybe in a few more years this will change, maybe not. Stayed tuned for more updates, because you will know when I know!

One thing I would definitely recommend is to visit a place first and try to live there for at least 6 months before you seriously considering moving there permanently. Not everyone is able to handle the “mañana” approach in Ecuador (also known as the “mai pen rai” style in Thailand). When we take our Western mind with us, even when we want to “get away,” we may still expect the post office to deliver on time or for the store to open when it says it should or for the correct item to be ordered and delivered. Well, things just don’t happen like that in more relaxed places in the world.

If you decide to go, join the Vilcabamba Facebook page to search for houses to rent and ask any questions to the local expat community.

Top Pick for Vilcabamba

Be sure to check out Elena’s Raw Food Lunch in her private home, a monthly event offered directly from Elena and her husband Vladamir, 2 of the nicest people you will meet in all of Ecuador, and even in the world! Elena has a passion for raw food recipes like no other and every month she offers a new and unique raw food menu for lunch. It’s well worth it to enjoy her creations, and a great way to meet other local raw food people too.

Elena’s Raw Food Lunch is amazing!! Here is her raw pizza with cashew “cheese”

Elena’s raw cacao and coconut cake…this cake alone is a reason to visit Vilca!!

So is Vilcabamba a real Valley of Longevity? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. According to the book The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer by Dan Buettner, Vilcabamba did not make the cut for having a high number of centenarians (people who live over 100) because they don’t have the proper documentation to verify birth records for age verification. Personally, I didn’t see that many healthy old Ecuadorians. Sadly, many of the locals appeared to be overweight and more on the unhealthy side of life.

Beautiful mountains and vistas in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

A word of warning about the salt in Vilcabamba and all of Ecuador/South America for that matter: There is a non-caking agent in the salt called Yellow Prussiate of Soda (YPS) or E535 or 535. This chemical additive can cause an allergic reaction in people resulting in an extremely itchy rash, restless sleep, hot flashes and irritability. I saw many expats in Vilcabamba suffering, especially with rashes. Salt is used in all restaurants (including “healthy” restaurants) contains this additive. I found people very unaware and even ran into problems with one local expat who was selling his own “higher quality” salt that caused a terrible reaction for me; still he swore it was clean. Upon further questioning, he revealed that his product has never actually been tested. In short, do not trust homemade expat labels and check the ingredient list on all other salt. Fluoride is also added to salt in South America so most people do try to avoid buying it, but I did not meet one person who knew the dangers associated with YPS, in my opinion, the much more dangerous ingredient. Stick with Himalayan salt or buy the equivalent large pink salt from Bolivia which can be found in supermarkets in La Paz for $2 per kilo.

We have nice memories of Vilcabamba….thank you!!

Vilcabamba is definitely not for everyone, but it’s still be a good place for a raw food community, and I hope to see it thrive!

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Think your Mediterranean Green Olives are a ‘safe, clean’ food? Think again!

I continue to try to dispel the myth that I hear over and over again when people tell me, “But I don’t eat processed foods” or “I NEVER eat Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)” or “the veggie restaurant I go to doesn’t use any additives in their food.”

What I hope to teach is that we have to be responsible for what we put in our mouths.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Ribonucleotide, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate are all flavor enhancers which add a salty, savory taste to foods. They overstimulate the taste in food, making a bland food taste exceptionally good. They also overstimulate the brain, and are known as “excito-toxins”. They can be listed either by the food additive name or by the food additive number (sometimes called ‘E numbers’): 621, 635, 631 and 627.

Legally, these food additives can also be ‘disguised’ in terms such as spices, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavors, flavoring, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed vegetable oil, torula yeast, autolyzed yeast, sodium caseinate, and monocalcium glutamate.

Of course, these additives can also be listed by their real name, as in the case of the examples below. But would you think that a simple can or jar of olives would contain flavor enhancers to chemically alter the taste? Well, they can!

In this blog post, we look at Mediterranean Green Olives, all exported from Spain. I found these particular items in a supermarket in Bolivia, South America, but you will recognize these brands in any supermarket in the world.

Ybarra Green Olives, a product of Spain, with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

In the first example, we look at Ybarra Green Olives stuffed with Jalapeños (or Aceitunas Verdes Rellenas in Spanish). Looking right on the list of ingredients, you will clearly see Monosodium Glutamate (or Glutamato Monosodico in Spanish). Looking on the Ybarra website, I saw that they do NOT list any ingredient information for any of their products. However, I did find the following statement:

“We care about our consumers’ health. That’s why we include nutritional labels on all our products to communicate, in a transparent way, nutritional information and ingredients of each one of them.”

Well, I do thank them for that!

Carbonell Spanish Green Olives with Pepper, with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

In the next example, we look at Carbonell Spanish Green Olives with Paprikou, or Pepper. Again, right on the list of ingredients it is easy to see Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). On the Carbonell website, I saw that they do NOT list any ingredient information for any of their products. Interestingly enough, I did find the following 2 statements:

“Carbonell olives with Pimento Pepper paste are allergen-free” and “Carbonell black olives are allergen-free.”

There was no mention of the Green Olive with Pepper, Monosodium Glutamate or any other allergen information on the website.

Fragata Green Olives with Pimento, with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Finally, we look at Fragata Spanish Green Olives stuffed with Pimento. On the list of ingredients, we can quickly see Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). On the Fragata website, I saw that they do NOT list any ingredient information for any of their products. (Are we seeing a pattern here?)

What do you want to see on the list of ingredients?

Ripe olives, water, salt.

When buying olives in a jar or can, try to stay away from flavored olives (like lemon, garlic or pimento). Anything flavored is much more likely to contain MSG. Plain is your safest bet.

If you see the word “spices” or “natural flavorings” on the ingredient list of olives, don’t buy it! In the USA, I find that food companies are a bit more savy, and they use other ingredients which already contain MSG and them hide it in the term “spices.” All legal, of course.

What are the best olives to buy?

The best olives to buy are fresh, organic olives cured naturally with fresh lemon, fresh garlic or fresh herbs. My favorite place to buy fresh green or black olives is at the Friday organic market outside of Shuk Hanamal at Tel Aviv Port, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Once you taste a real fresh olive, you will quickly understand the inferior quality and flavor from a jarred or canned olive full of chemical additives.

A “clean diet” must be MSG-free!

All of this information may seem overwhelming at first, but isn’t it time to learn the truth? Especially if on your “clean and safe” diet, you are still experiencing migraines, insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, restless leg syndrome, dizziness, vertigo, irritability, moodiness, depression, sensitivity to sound and light and/or a general feeling of malaise and lack of energy?

Even small amounts of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in the diet, as little as 3-4 times per week, can make a person symptomatic for the entire week. Imagine how someone may feel when they are unknowingly eating MSG 3-4 times per day!

Not everyone will experience the same exact symptoms, because flavor enhancers like MSG will over-stimulate the brain in individuals in different ways, depending on their body chemistry and sensitivity. Look at the rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD and autism absolutely sky-rocketing every year and compare that to the amounts of flavor enhancers (or excito-toxins) hidden in foods and in the diet, and it will quickly become apparent that we are facing an epidemic with the chemical additives in our food.

Solution:

Always look at the ingredients before making a decision to buy. It’s takes less than 30 seconds, and over time, you will know what brands are safe and what brands are not. In restaurants, you always have to be careful, because waitstaff and even chefs are simply not trained on the level of food additive allergies and intolerances. In restaurants, I only order salads with no dressing and a side of lemon or lime. If there are canned or jarred olives on the salad, I don’t eat them.

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What I Learned from taking a traditional Nutrition Course…and What I Didn’t Learn

I recently completed the Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights Course at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing. It was an extremely insightful experience to see what a traditional Nutritionist learns and eventually coaches or advocates to their clients.

I decided that it would be a unique “cultural exchange” to experience what traditional Nutritionists learn. Although I did learn a few useful things that I will outline below, for the most part I was shocked and disappointed to see the mis-truths and lack of unbiased information being presented to the students. Well, we all know that industry sponsors many universities through expensive grants, so could we really expect these teaching institutions to maintain an impartial perspective?

Many times during the course, I felt like I was being fed propaganda created directly by the food industry and/or Monsanto themselves. I actually feel bad for anyone who spends the money on a 4-year Nutrition Degree, because they may enter their study with high hopes of helping others, but how can they really help guide others through nutrition and diet when they are being taught lies? It’s truly a shame to see a system that is so broken and so far away from the relevance of a real natural, whole and pure diet and its effect on one’s health.

What I Learned

As I mentioned above, there were a few things that I learned from this course, or at least that I felt were truthful and relevant. They include:

-Professor showed several studies comparing a vegetarian diet to meat-based diet and how vegetarians have reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, etc.

-Professor mentioned that, “Even though we are living longer in the US, we are also living sicker.” I would agree!

-Professional explained superfoods, nutrient-dense foods, phyto-chemicals and importance of nutrients in the diet. Obviously this is important, and was factual in the course.

Superfood are Nutrient-Dense Foods
from Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing

-Professor cited a study that showed vegan and vegetarian diet offer significant benefit in diabetes management. Additionally, it was pointed out that vegan and vegetarian diets also improve plasma lipid concentrations and have been shown to reverse atherosclerosis progression.

-Professor cited the position of the American Dietetic Association that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

-Professor discussed the importance on B12 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids in a vegetarian and/or vegan diet. Certainly important factors to consider, and should be addressed for meat-eaters too!

-Professor accurately showed the excess of salt, fat and sugar in the Standard American Diet and the related high obesity rates in the United States.

Clearly these facts cannot be denied!

Typical American Diet: Excess in Fat, Salt and Sugar
from Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing

United States #2 in Obesity Rates
from Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing

In summary, some good information about the benefits of a vegetarian and/or vegan diet was presented, and some factual information on obesity and the lack of fruits and vegetables in the Standard American (SAD) Diet was mentioned.

The other parts of the course are where I found myself wincing and shaking my head in utter dismay.

What I Didn’t Learn

Most notable items not addressed, under-addressed or mis-addressed in this course:

-Professor downplayed any danger associated with GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods, saying that “GMO has been around for centuries and centuries” and then stated that GMO has been around for “thousands of years.”

How did they isolate proteins in labs thousands of years ago exactly?

-Professor mentioned soy as a complete protein but of course no mention that 94% of soy in the USA is GMO and no mention or even peep about consuming GMO foods in relation to higher risk of infertility and food allergies.

Isn’t this of utmost importance when working with people and the nutritional relevance of their diet to health?

-Professor stated that, “Consumers may need to educate themselves before they jump on the bandwagon of something that they don’t understand,” and went on to add that with GMO foods “we are feeding areas of the world that don’t have the distribution and supply that we have.”

Spoon-fed propaganda from Monsanto PR…or what?

Anyone who is working with nutrition and food allergies, autism, ADHD and infertility (all of which have completed skyrocketed in the last decade worldwide) knows that something has seriously gone wrong.

If you are unsure in any way, please watch these documentaries on GMO foods and health: “The World According to Monsanto,” “Food, Inc.,” “The Future of Food,” “Seeds of Freedom,” “Genetic Roulette,” “Scientists Under Attack,” and “The GMO Trilogy.” Some of these documentaries can be watched for FREE online at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/.

I also highly recommend the book The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It by Robyn O’Brien for extensively researched information and links to studies on GMO foods and food allergies. An excellent read for anyone looking to learn more on the subject of GMO foods and health!

Yes, it is true that we need to educate ourselves!

-Professor downplayed importance of organic foods, stating that “an organic apple is not going to be more nutritious than a conventionally grown apple.”

No mention of pesticides, GMO proteins or the simple fact that organic soil has more nutrients in the soil. How, why?? How can a “qualified” Nutritionist ignore the nutritional value of organic food?

In fact, reviews of multiple studies show that organic varieties do provide significantly greater levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than non-organic varieties of the same foods (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20359265).

Organic food has been shown to have higher nutrient concentrations,
yet Vanderbilt University’s Nutrition Course says: No Difference.

-Professor advocated the use of “fortified foods” as a way to increase nutrient consumption, specifically advocating milk fortified with Vitamin D, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified sports drinks like Gatorade.

Why ignore the value of organic whole foods yet advocate processed foods that are chemically fortified with inorganic vitamins and minerals? No mention of the antibiotics and hormones in conventional milk, the added sugar in breakfast cereals or the chemical colorings in sports drinks. Wow.

-Professor downplayed the dangers of chemical food additives in the diet.

In my professional experience, more people are being affected by all types of food additives more than ever before, because food additives are being used in food more than ever before!

Flavor enhancers (MSG, ribonucleotide), nitrates, sulfites, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners and chemical colorings are creating an absolute health epidemic! To gloss over this issue and to not acknowledge the danger of food additives in relation to nutrition and health is both irresponsible and just plain idiotic. I’m truly devastated to see the education so lacking on this topic. Sadly, the food industry has a lot of money to hide the truth.

Nutrition Courses teach that MSG is “Generally Recognized as Safe” or GRAS
from Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing

Because Monosodium Glutamate was used in foods before 1958, the FDA considers it as “Generally Recognized as Safe” or GRAS. Other foods which are categorized as GRAS are salt, pepper, vinegar and baking powder. How is it possible that MSG is considered as safe as vinegar? And hasn’t the amounts of concentrations of MSG increased in foods since 1958, making it a higher risk contaminant and something that should be re-evaluated in the interest of public health and safety?

The worst part of all is that this is what Nutritionists are learning in school. Will they be able to identify an MSG intolerance in their client? Chances are extremely slim, because they are taught that MSG is “safe!” I cannot count how many clients I have worked with suffering from migraines, insomnia, depression, heart palpitations, anxiety, vertigo, itchy rashes, puffiness, sensitivity to light and sound and even behavioral and learning problems in children: all of which were reversed when we removed MSG and/or Ribonucleotides and all hidden forms of MSG out of the diet.

You cannot advise people on food and not take into account the potential effect of chemical food additives!

-Professor spoke with David McCarty, Senior VP Operations of Smart Balance spreads for 30 minutes and praised his product line for being a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids and for being a “heart-friendly” food.

Smart Balance “butter” is not something that I even consider a FOOD!

What is natural about spreadable butter containing genetically modified (GMO) soy and artificial flavor which is surely where they are hiding the salty, savory flavor enhancers and/or some hidden form of MSG to actually give this greasy mess some type of taste that is palatable to humans?

How are consumers protected when food companies “self-regulate”?
from Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing

If you are a non-vegan, you are much better off eating REAL butter with 2 simple ingredients: butter and salt. I am amazed to see Smart Balance call itself a “heart healthy” food when Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is known to cause heart palpitations. People may eat this mess and think they are having a heart attack!

Vegans can simply use extra-virgin olive oil, an organic almond butter or tahini (sesame seed) paste. People on a raw food vegan diet will not need any spread to put on bread, and they can use fresh lime or lime for salad dressing and add tahini to a raw cracker. Easy!

To summarize, I do not feel that I wasted my time by taking a traditional nutrition class. Actually, I would recommend it to anyone working with nutrition, diet, people and food. It’s important to know what the “mainstream” teaches in order to have a better understanding of what your client may have faced previously by seeing a traditional nutritionist in the past.

That said, there still may be some nutritionists who think and learn outside of the box and may actually have an awareness of other factors that affect food and health, mainly GMO foods, quality of food (organic vs. conventional) and the relation of food additives to health. As a client, the best thing to do is to check your nutritionist’s website or ask them if they will go to the level of food additives and food quality during your session. If they reply that their approach is centered only around protein, carbs, fats, minerals and vitamins, then please take my advice: keep shopping until you find someone who will go deeper to help you have the best health ever…because you deserve the very best, in food and in health!

For information on how to work with me for Your Best Health, please go to my Coaching Page.

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