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This blog is about gut flora, good bacteria, scientific research, and anti-inflammatory food. It’s a prescription for anyone who wishes to eat their way to a healthier life. It’s impossible to overdose on this course of treatment.

Recipes, Therese Elgquist

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Chocolate Bliss Balls with Cranberries and Roasted Sesame

Bliss balls are what I tend to make when I am craving something sweet but have no desire to actually bake something. I toss in fresh dates and other dried fruits I have at home together with tahini or some other nut butter, plus a grain(like oatmeal) as the base. From there I add in flavors like cacao or a berry powder. Roll them up into little balls and then in a coating like coconut flakes or sesame seeds, I’ve even tested matcha powder.

This recipe is of all my creations my favorite bliss ball. a little bit tart from the cranberry powder and a tiny bit crispy from the sesame seeds! I hope you’ll like them as much as I do, otherwise feel free to get creative and come up with your own bliss balls.

Chocolate Bliss Balls with Cranberries and Roasted Sesame
(serves 16 balls)

1 ½ cup oatmeal
12 fresh dates, pitted
⅓ cup cacao
2 tsp cranberry powder
2 tbsp light tahini
2 tbsp water (possibly more)
1 tbsp cacao nibs
⅓ cup of roasted sesame seeds for coating
a pinch of salt

Add the oatmeal to a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds. Add in everything else except for the sesame seeds and mix until the dough comes together (you may need a bit more water if your dough is too crumbly). Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes before rolling.  Coat the balls in the roasted sesame seeds. They keep for a week in the fridge otherwise you can pop them in the freezer.

Follow Therese Elgquist on Instagram @plantbasedbythess, or look for other inspiration by Therese on her website plantbasedbythess.com

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Food Pharmacy

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Nutrient Hunter Staples to Keep in Your Pantry

We’ve all heard of spring cleaning but how about a little fall organization? As the season turns and the skies become grey, we will all undoubtedly find ourselves inside more often. Tucked up in a blanket and binging netflix. That’s why it’s the perfect time to go through our cupboards and pantries to organize and restock. Restock with all the ingredients that make being a nutrient hunter easy and our bodies happy instead of binging on things that add to the battle against winter bulge. 

Once you’ve decluttered all the things that aren’t doing you any favors, check out the list we put together for you below of good-to-have staple items in your pantry.  Keep in mind that the list is inspiration based on guidelines from the nutrient hunter’s compass and not mandatory, i.e., just three of the different oils listed is a good start! As mentioned everything on the list can be found in the Nutrient Hunter Compass. They are foods that we generally eat too little of and that research recommends we eat more of (becoming a nutrient hunter is also good for the environment, because as luck would have it, food that’s good for us is generally also is more gentle on the planet). Here you will find everything from our favorite spices and flour varieties to legumes, nuts and seeds that go on repeat in our homes.

For those who want to exclude gluten – quinoa, sorghum and buckwheat are good alternatives. We have included three different types of quinoa in the list below because as nutrient hunters we like both variety and color. Since they have basically the same cooking time, you can mix them in a jar to keep in your pantry and make a habit of always cooking all three colors at the same time.

Another recommendation in our latest book is to make your own spice mixes. In the Nutrient Hunter there are several different mixes. Everything from homemade taco seasoning to a curry mix that you can use on the spot. Spices are packed with antioxidants, especially polyphenols. A few seconds of mixing one large batch saves a lot of time in the long run of doing it over and over.

If you have some of the seeds and nuts on our list, you could make a granola (healthier and better than in the store too!).  Making your own granola is easier than you think and making a double batch doesn’t require any more effort but saves on time. If you think granola is too advanced, you can make it even easier – combine natural nuts, seeds, grains and spices and pour into a glass jar and you have your own muesli in three minutes! P.S. Did you know that just 30 grams of walnuts per day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease! 

Nutrient Hunter’s Pantry Staples:

Cereals and Grains:
Buckwheat
Oat groats
Sorghum
Rolled oats
Quinoa
Rye berries

Legumes:
Chickpeas
Black beans
Red lentils
Beluga lentils

Flour:
Buckwheat flour
Sorghum flour
Chickpea flour

Nuts and seeds:
Chia seeds
Whole flax seeds
Natural nuts, all varieties
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
Almonds

Pasta alternatives:
Bean pastas
Kelp noodles

Herbs and Seasonings:
Basil
Cayenne pepper
Chili
Turmeric
Ginger
Ceylon Cinnamon
Cardamom
Cloves
Oregano
Cumin
Black pepper
Thyme
Raw cocoa
Sea salt
Honey
Vegetable broth

Oils and Vinegars:
Tahini (we like the light best)
Tamari soy
Apple Cider Vinegar (raw unfiltered)
Cold pressed canola oil
Cold pressed olive oil
Cold pressed virgin coconut oil

Other:
Crushed tomatoes
Light or medium roasted coffee (extra important that it is organic)
Matcha powder
Dark chocolate (at least 70%)
Herbal tea (e.g. chamomile, yerba mate, peppermint)
Coconut flakes
Oat milk and cream (to coffee and cooking)

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Karolinska Institutet

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Do Microbes Influence Our Love Life?

How our microbiome develops and what role the microbes in the gut and vagina play for our health, especially during pregnancy, is my recurring theme here at FP. To read some of my previous posts on the matter, click here.

My daughter got married this last summer and it sparked a thought about a very interesting question. Could it be, that microbes also affect which people we are attracted to and which sex partners we choose? 

Can we use scent to detect a suitable partner?

The bacteria on our skin contribute to our body odor, which is an important part of how we choose a partner. For example, the bacteria transform the oil we have on our skin into a very unique blend of fatty acids and other substances that give us a distinctive scent, our very own signature. Imagine the process as a lure that the bacteria produce to gain access to another human body host to colonize. After all, sex can be quite sweaty and messy, an almost perfect set-up for bacterial transmission.

In addition to this, our immune system plays an important role in how we perceive the scent of other people. Our immune response genes become yet another personal scent signature that has been trained by bacteria from an early age. There are studies that show that we unconsciously choose a partner with immune response genes that are different from our own.

Bacteria communicate with each other through different signaling substances, some of which are the same hormones that cells in us humans produce, such as oxytocin and serotonin. They contribute to our love life by regulating our moods and are needed for our well-being and sense of closeness.

In a controlled study of 21 couples who were intensely kissed, a research group from Amsterdam showed that about 8 million bacteria were exchanged per second. One person from each couple had to drink a probiotic yogurt before kissing, and the researchers measured the probiotic bacteria in the saliva of the partner. In addition, the study showed that couples who kiss each other often have a bacterial flora in their mouths that is more similar to each other than that found in the mouth of other people.

How should we deal with the invasion of microbes in our love life?

First, don’t try to hide your own scent signature by using too much perfume or cologne. Secondly, you may not need to use such large amounts of soap as what it common nor shower too frequently (this also saves on the environment). Above all, make sure to nurture your bacterial flora on and in your body through a varied diet that contains a lot of fiber, a lifestyle of regular physical activity and some time in nature. It helps you maintain radiant skin and an irresistible scent of health and attraction. Instead of dating apps, you just need to get out in the crowd and trust your nose!

There is very little we know today about the role of bacterial flora in women’s health and the correlating potential to give birth to healthy children. But we at the Center for Translational Microbiome Research have started several studies to find out. The SweMaMi study has now received samples from 1000 mothers and children, 1000 pregnant women are already present and will send more samples to us but 500 are still missing. So I can’t help but ask, are you pregnant? and are you interested in participating? 

Ina Schuppe Koistinen is an Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet and works at the Center for Translational Microbiome Research to study the role of bacterial flora in inflammatory bowel diseases and women’s health. In addition to her research, she is passionate about yoga and guiding people to a healthier lifestyle. She is also active as an artist with watercolor as a medium. The views in the chronicle are the writer’s own.

Watercolor: Ina Schuppe Koistinen

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Food Pharmacy, Recipes

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Green Kitchen Stories’ Cashew Masala with Tofu

This week Food Pharmacy got to have an exciting chat with some fellow Scandinavian bloggers, book writers and veggie enthusiasts that we’re sure you’ve heard of: David och Luise från Green Kitchen Stories.

We were thrilled when they gifted us their latest book Little Green Kitchen, and made sure to pack it in our tote bags directly to make sure we’d have time to thumb through it later that night. Being that the book is oriented around kids we came up with the clever idea to let the kids page through it with us and pick out one dinner and one treat that we could try during the week. Not and easy task when every picture is so deliciously vibrant!

None the less we whittled down the pick to a cashew masala with tofu and and apple dessert with ice cream. As we glanced through the recipes we noticed that David and Luise used some of the same green secrets we do! Instead of replacing rice entirely they just reduced it and combined it with some grated cauliflower. And instead of going pasta-free they compensate with a nutrient dense sauce instead.

So, yesterday the kitchen was filled with scents of Indian spices and sweet apples. Needless to say, it was a hit! We’re pretty sure the kids also enjoyed being a part of the planning committee too.

Cashew Masala with Tofu
(serves 4)

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1-2 cm slice of fresh ginger, peeled and grated fine
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garam masala
1 can of crushed tomatoes
¾ cup cashews, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 ¼ cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
400g/ 14 oz. of tofu, dried with paper towels and diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serve with:
cooked brown rice
fresh cilantro

Saute the onion, garlic, ginger and spices together in a pot with coconut oil for about 15 minutes (or until the onion is soft). Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cashews, water and lemon. Use a hand mixer to blend into a creamy sauce. Then add the diced tofu to the sauce. Warm up the sauce again if needed, serve with brown rice and cilantro.

Tip!
If you didn’t have time to soak the cashews you can just pour boiling water over them in a bowl and let them soften for about 15-30 minutes.

Thanks Green Kitchen Stories for the recipe!

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