Recipes, Therese Elgquist

N​ut-free​ gran​ola-squares​ ​with​ cinnamon

This weekend, we finally had a little more time to ​spend​ in the kitchen. Not that it takes very long to make these small, nut-free snacks – 15 minutes in the blender and half an hour in the fridge while waiting for them to solidify. The next and last step is to enjoy eating them.

These quick little blended goodies work well as a snack, or something to bring ​on​ a day trip, or just for that Friday chill-session on the couch. And don’t forget that granola-squares contain gra-no-la, which means that they are perfect for chopping into small​​ pieces and sprinkling over yogurt.

The granola is sweetened with a few dates, given a sticky texture using creamy tahini (granola-knowledge: the dates help with texture too!), and flavored with lovely december cinnamon. And also – not a nut in sight, so they’re good for most people.

Nut-free granola-squares with cinnamon
16 pieces

1/2 cup pumpkin kernels
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
2 pinches sea salt
4 pitted dates
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon cold pressed coconut oil

Seed the dates and mix them with all the dry ingredients into a dough. Add tahini and coconut oil (and possibly 1 tablespoon of water if the dough feels too dry).

Squeeze the dough between two baking papers into a​ big​ square, about 1/2 inch thick. Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Take ​it​ out of the fridge and cut into​ smaller​ squares, about 16 pieces. Sprinkle some cocoa on top. Serve well chilled.


Add 2 tablespoons of cacao nibs after blending for a mouth-watering chocolate touch!


You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

Food Pharmacy, Press

SVT Agenda

On Sunday we gathered excitedly around the tv to watch SVT Agenda. We knew it would be about intestinal flora, and whether the current interest in this subject is just a passing fad or something that’s here to stay (spoiler alert: it’s here to stay). What we didn’t know, however, was that we would be part of the program.

So, as long as we’re talking about it, we figured we might as well share some bad-quality screenshots for your enjoyment:

There was a clip from this past spring, when we were invited to appear on the Swedish tv-show ”Malou after ten.” And appear we did, complete with banana sweatshirt ​and all.

Ok, enough about us. Let’s instead focus on the fact that our new guest blogger, science journalist Henrik Ennart, was interviewed during the program. And, sitting there directly to his left, we found our friend Anna, who runs one of our favorite restaurants in Stockholm, Pom & Flora,  together with her husband Rasmus. Hi Henrik! Hi Anna!

And hello Tim Spektor! We don’t​ ​know you but we read everything you write. By the way, can you give us your address so that we can send you our book as soon as it’s published in English (early January)? Thanks in advance and hugs!

If you know Swedish, see the full section here.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

Henrik Ennart

Happy Food

We get butterflies in our stomach when we fall in love, it’s like a knife in the gut when we’re treated unfairly, and it’s with our gut-feeling that we make instinctive decisions. What people throughout history have intuitively understood has now, in recent years, finally begun to gain a scientific explanation. 

This new research is what Me and Niklas Ekstedt, discuss in our book Happy Food. We’ve interviewed researchers around the world and read hundreds of scientific reports. We believe that there is important research taking place in the vanguard, and that it’s important to deepen our knowledge about it. The picture that is emerging is already showing that the links between the intestines and the brain are stronger than we could have ever imagined.

Your intestinal bacteria altogether weigh about 1.4 kilograms (3 lbs), roughly the same as your brain. There are unfathomable numbers of them – about 40 trillion according to new calculations – and they are present in the billions in every gram of mucus that covers the walls of your colon.

These trillions of inhabitants, currently residing in your very private intestinal basement, are in direct contact with the brain. They communicate via nerve cells that surround the intestine. These nerve cells are as numerous as those found in the entire spinal cord, and they are connected to the large vagus nerve, one of the largest nerves in the body – which is in turn part of our autonomic nervous system, the one we can’t consciously control ourselves.

However, there are other communication pathways in what researchers are calling the ”Gut-brain axis,” and in those cases it’s about both the hormonal system and the immune system.

Every type of neurotransmitter that your brain uses can be made by your intestinal bacteria in their microscopic workshops, including key players for our emotional life, like dopamine and norepinephrine. 95 percent of the body’s production of the ”happiness hormone” serotonin is created in the intestine.

Even the ancient Greeks knew that the stomach and the psyche were connected. Nevertheless, our healthcare system continues to promote the belief that the brain is an autonomous entity, leading a completely independent life separate from the rest of the body.

Through years of patient research, a conclusion has emerged: If we treat our intestinal bacteria well, they can help us to become more stress-resistant, clear-headed, happy, and harmonious. The food we eat also seems to play a role when it comes to depression and other psychological diseases.

This summer, I attended a science conference in Bethesda, outside of Washington D.C, in the US. There, researchers from all over the world were studying the link between the intestine and the brain. Their message was clear:

• We now know that there is a correlation between the quality of food we consume and how we feel.

• It’s time to proceed with more research and more expansive studies that will enable us to better understand the connection and to develop treatments.

Western junk food, with its excess of sugar and refined fats, as well as its lack of fibers and healthy micronutrients, has long been linked to global epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Now, we see one research group after another reporting data indicating that even the epidemic of poor mental health has been linked to the same underlying causes.

Of course, there are many different reasons as to why we may feel depressed, and food can’t solve all problems on its own. But when we get sick or anxious, many parts of the body are affected, the intestinal flora being one of them. When our bacterial system is in a state of imbalance, our immune system is weakened. It can easily become a downward spiral in which we feel worse and worse. Often, the cause may be in the intestine.

In fact, time after time, the common denominator turns out to be our intestinal flora. For example, in early animal experiments, researchers have observed that feces transplanted into mice from depressed people caused the animals to show depressive behavior. When the mice feces were passed on to other mice, the depressed mood followed.

Other tests have shown that outgoing, social mice that received feces transferred from shy, more inward mice developed a behavior with autistic features.

Another example that stands out: In an early stage of a human study, researchers have found that individual intestinal bacteria – in this case, one called faecalibacterium prausnitzii – seems to coincide with the occurrence and even the degree of bipolar disorder.

We’re not yet in a situation where individual diseases can be treated by adding, removing, or in any other way manipulating a bacterial bloom that has come into imbalance. But we’re heading that way at a breathtaking pace! In Sweden, people who have had their intestinal flora damaged due to severe bowel infections, now receive treatment involving transplanted feces.

The researchers I met in Bethesda have formed an international organization called ISNPR (International Society for Nutrion and Psychiatric Research). Their chairman, the Australian researcher Felice Jacka, expressed her conviction during our interview that good and healthy food is an important complement to the current treatment methods for depressed people.

She also stressed that more research is needed, but at the same time, there is no real reason to wait, especially not when we’re in a situation that involves so many people suffering from depression without proper treatment methods. ”We already know that there is a connection between food and mental health. What we need now is to develop diagnostics tests and treatment methods. ”

Science journalist and writer Henrik Ennart is the author of the book Happy Food. Now and then, he writes here at Food Pharmacy.

Food Pharmacy, Press

New study: Vegetarian diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease

It’s late November, and we’re here at Landvetter Airport, close to Gothenburg. We’re about to head home to Stockholm, having just given a lecture on intestinal flora for 130 employees at Volvo.

When we’re out giving talks about diet and health, we get many questions about a variety of diseases. There are questions about everything from diabetes and cancer, to Alzheimer’s and IBS. But to date we haven’t received a single question on cardiovascular disease. However, cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of death in Sweden. Although fewer people are currently dying from it (due to both major progress in research and better acute care for heart disease), the Heart-Lung Foundation’s yearly Heart Report still shows that more and more people are currently living with serious risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And the culprit seems to be our lifestyle.

A few years ago, we interviewed chief physician David Stenholtz. David told us that there are many lifestyle-related diseases that can be eliminated almost exclusively with diet, including cardiovascular disease. This we noted diligently, and yet inside our heads the question remained: Can it really be that simple – that the food we eat can help prevent what has become the most common cause of death in Sweden?

Recently, at the American Heart Association’s annual congress, a study was presented showing that for people who switched to a vegetarian diet, the risk was significantly reduced for cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis in just four weeks. The study group included 31 obese people, each with high blood-fat levels, all of whom were put on a vegetarian diet. At both the start and the conclusion of the study, blood-fat levels were measured against the numbers that are most common for those suffering from heart disease, and the results showed that all blood fats (especially Lp (a), cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, triglycerides, apolipoprotein B and A-1, LDL-particles, small-density LDL-C, HDL2-C and apolipoprotein A-1) were decreased by between 15-30%.

Time for boarding. We sat down on row 26 and agreed on that if it’s that easy to prevent cardiovascular disease through maintaining a healthy diet, we should spread the news, the best way we can.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

Food Pharmacy, Therese Elgquist

Saffron-bun porridge with carrots and saffron

It’s Monday, and it’s finally time for us to 1) present Food Pharmacy’s new blog chef Therese Elgquist, and 2) share her first recipe here on the blog. We’re talking saffron-bun porridge, and yes you are absolutely welcome to start drooling.

Therese, as you may already know, is the genius behind many of the recipes in our cookbook. She describes herself as a food nerd, food creator, cookbook-author, and food artist who loves to cook, eat, talk and style food.

Therese makes vegetarian, nutritious, exciting food with a variety of flavors, textures and colors. Her style of cooking is mostly a process in which, after a careful process of choosing very specific raw ingredients, she can focus on something she thinks is especially good. And then she combines that something with three (or four, or five – yes, you get it) other ingredients that she also really likes. The results are usually very good. And cooking doesn’t have to be much harder then that.

We see this as the beginning of an inspiring and delicious trove of recipes listed here on the blog, which can function like a best friend to our good intestinal bacteria, and can be something that gets those creative juices flowing in the kitchen. Also, since December just started, it feels more than a little apropos to kick it off with one of our favorite porridges, one that is chock-full of Christmas vibes. It’s a little like eating saffron buns for breakfast: creamy, filling, soothing and beautiful to look at. And of course the recipe can be doubled or tripled or quadrupled without problems.

Being the persistent nutritionists we are, we constantly strive to find new ways to get as many greens as possible into each meal. For this particular porridge we grated a carrot and added it right at the end!

Saffron bun porridge with carrots and saffron
(1 serving)

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 small carrot, grated
1 pinch saffron
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk (or more water)
 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Red apple
Organic raisins
Roasted buckwheat * or seeds
Fresh mint (optional, but makes the porridge feel extra luxurious!)

Boil the water, coconut milk and saffron. Remove from heat and add the oatmeal. Let it absorb the moisture for at least 30 minutes (and go out for a morning jog, drink a cup of tea, pack a bag?).

Scrub clean and grate the carrot (please keep the peel, it contains plenty of nutrition). Put the pan back on the stove, raise the temperature a little, and let it simmer for a few minutes. Take it off the stove again, add the carrot and chia seeds, and allow to absorb for a few more minutes. Serve in a bowl topped with sliced ​​apple, raisins, buckwheat and mint if you’re in the mood. Light a candle, eat, enjoy and hum a Christmas carol for best results!

This is how you roast buckwheat:
Put 1 cup of buckwheat in a strainer. Boil water and pour over the buckwheat, then rinse off with cold water. Allow to drain, place the buckwheat on an oven plate and roast in the oven at 210 degrees Fahrenheit until they get crispy and golden. It takes about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Keep the buckwheat in a sealed can.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.


Lentil stew with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and curry

Hey! My name is Ludvig and I’m 9 years old. A few days ago, my mom Mia made something that I really didn’t want for dinner. It didn’t look good and the food was sort of sticky. I sat down at the table and tasted it. It felt disgusting that I even ate it, but then I realized how good it was and ate all of it. I recommend for all kids to try it. It’s healthy and good. Ok, that’s all! Bye to all the nice fans out there!

P.S. Adults should also try it. Mom can write the recipe below.

(4 servings)

1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup red lentils
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon curry (or 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cumin)
1 sweet potato
1/4 cauliflower head
1 big carrot
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
baby spinach (optional)

Chop the onion and heat it on low-temperature in coconut oil, preferably with the curry, for a few minutes. Rinse the lentils, dice the potatoes, divide the cauliflower head into smaller bouquets and chop the carrot. Put everything in the saucepan with the crushed tomatoes, the water, and the spices. Boil at low temperature until the vegetables soften and some of the liquid has boiled away. It should take about 20 minutes. Turn down the heat and add fresh baby spinach just before serving, and let the kids choose the thing to eat it with (we ate it with wheat grains).

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.


Readers questions

It’s Thursday, the rain is clattering against the window, and the time has come for another podcast episode from the Food Pharmacy crew. This time, we talk about everything from vitamin D and beet stalks, to supplements and rinsing vegetables in vinegar. In addition, you’ll get the recipe for our pesto from paradise. Sound intriguing? Well then, you can listen here. Or here.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

Food Pharmacy, Press

Intestinal flora in focus on Swedish Tv-show

Two days ago, we brought both our food blender and our gut bacteria to the channel 4 tv-house, and were featured as guests on the tv-show Malou efter tio (Malou after ten). In the show we discussed intestinal flora, and made some recipes that our bacteria (and our children’s bacteria) can enjoy: Luke Skywalker’s granola, ”meat sauce” on red lentils, strawberry yogurt, green blueberry soup, hot chocolate, and apple pie cookies (almost all the recipes can be found here or here if you suddenly feel an acute craving). Maybe these aren’t exactly revolutionary recipes that will change the gastronomic food scene, but sometimes (read: quite often) the simple things are the best.

For example, many of you might find it hard to cook healthy weekday dinners. To this we can only say: Take it easy. Let go of the dinner stress for a while and start focusing on changing up your snacks instead. A good snack (smoothie, porridge, quick ”ice cream”?) can actually be filled with nutrition.

Or, focus on breakfast, the biggest sugar-culprit of them all. Why not try our green blueberry soup or strawberry yogurt to start your day?

In the studio, we were joined by another intestinal flora nerd (we’re a small but tight gang) named Lars Engstrand, a professor and chief physician in the field of intestinal research. He liked our apple pie bites. And we like people who like our apple pie bites.

But joy is fleeting, as you know. In just twelve short minutes it was over. The lights went out and the cameras were directed towards some other exciting guests. And we walked slowly home, lugging our mixer, our artichokes, and our green bananas. But not our apple pie cookies. Lars had taken them back to his lab.

Watch the full clip here.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

Ann Fernholm, Debate

The sugar industry stopped research showing that sugar can cause cardiovascular disease

Just like the tobacco industry, the sugar industry has influenced the research around it. In 1971, they halted a study that showed how sugar negatively affects intestinal flora and upsets blood-fat levels in lab rats. For half a century, the sugar industry has managed to prevent this important knowledge from being publicized.

In 1965, researchers at Harvard were paid by the Sugar Research Foundation, an American organization sponsored by the sugar industry, to write an article claiming that sugar is harmless for the heart. This cover-up was finally revealed just last year by Cristin Kearns, researcher at UCSF in San Francisco..

Now, Cristin Kearns has been digging deeper into the archives, and has discovered that the Sugar Research Foundation, in the years of 1967-1971, funded animal-tested research at Birmingham University, in which scientists investigated whether or not sugar affects the risks of developing cardiovascular disease. The study in fact showed that sugar upsets blood-fat levels, and that intestinal flora are involved in the process: Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents. In addition, sugar-levels were increased by a protein that is associated with bladder cancer.

These negative results caused the sugar industry to hurriedly withdraw their money from the research project.

The sugar industry therefore, has done exactly what the tobacco industry did. They have directly impeded any research that could affect their sales.

It’s making me so upset just thinking about it, and there are things I want to write that I probably shouldn’t, so let’s just move on.

Sugar, intestinal flora and blood fats

The interesting thing, which the unfinished study shows, is the connection between sugar, a compromised intestinal flora, and an unhealthy level of blood-fat. In my book My Sweet HeartI talk about how fat increases in the liver whenever we eat a large amount of the sugar known as fructose (found in white sugar). The build-up of fat in the liver upsets blood-fat levels, and may in the end cause fatty-liver. In one chapter of the book, you can read the following (for those who haven’t read my books, metabolic syndrome is the disrupted metabolism that people with abdominal obesity and type 2 diabetes experience):

Bowel incontinence and bacterial toxicity seems to contribute to a fatty liver.

As you’ve probably read before, people with metabolic syndrome are more likely to have a depleted intestinal flora, with a high number of inflammatory bacteria. This condition is also associated with a bowel incontinence. The bacteria have special molecules, called endotoxins (shorthand for internal toxins), located in a membrane that surrounds the bacteria. The levels of these toxins found in the blood are increased in those suffering from metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Some researchers believe that this is a contributing factor to the fatty-liver condition that I describe in chapter 3. For instance, if mice are fed with fructose, they soon develop bowel-incontinence, more bacterial infections in the blood, and, in the long run, fatty-liver. But if the mice are given antibiotics at the same time, it seems to protect them from fatty liver. Antibiotics can cause unbalance among healthy intestinal flora, but at the same time, it is also true that antibiotics help get rid of unhealthy bacteria. In the case of the mice, the antibiotic counteracted the poison-producing bacteria. The experiment suggests that an upset intestinal flora may accelerate the development of fatty liver and metabolic syndrome.

With that said, it should be known that the research I refer to was published in 2008 and 2009. But the sugar industry knew about the link between sugar, intestinal flora and upset blood fats already, in the early 1970s.

Further animal experiments in May this year showed that fructose causes leaky intestines in mice. In September, researchers also published a new article about fructose, intestinal flora and the risk of fatty liver.

It’s tempting to think that this is all exciting new knowledge, but the truth is that the sugar industry knew about it 50 years ago. For half a century, they’ve managed to prevent this knowledge from spreading, and as a result are complicit in decades of disease and needless suffering. Is there anyone else out there who finds all of this a little depressing?

Science journalist and writer Ann Fernholm runs the blog Now and then, she writes here at Food Pharmacy.


Overnight oats with banana split

Question: What should we eat on a slushy Saturday morning in November?
Answer: Banana split. Any questions?

This recipe is not 100% Food Pharmacy-Approved, as you’ll soon notice, because we heat the bananas at low temperatures in coconut oil, cinnamon, and a tablespoon of maple syrup. The syrup, of course is sinfully good, but not necessary – it’s obviously good to eat the bananas naturally with a little powdered cinnamon.

Overnight oats with banana split
(2 servings, so double everything)

1 cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 1/2 cup plant-based milk of your choice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
2 bananas
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons natural almonds
2 tablespoons nutella

Put the oatmeal, chia seeds, milk, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight (or skip the overnight-thing and make the porridge in the morning instead, by putting the ingredients in a pot and letting it simmer for a few minutes).

Cut the bananas right down the middle and heat them in a frying pan on low temperature with coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon for a few minutes on each side until they’re soft. Serve the porridge with the banana, chopped natural almonds, some extra plant-based milk, and nutella, which you can either make yourself or buy ready-made at a health food store (be sure to check the table of contents so that you don’t end up with a brand that uses too much sugar and other weird stuff).

Among the most delicious things we’ve made on the blog, ever.


You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.