Gluten Free Chocolate Crinkley Cookies

In my house it is a frequent occasion for one of the girls to knock out a batch of massive, crinkly, chocolatey home made cookies.   Those among us avoiding gluten or wheat just walk by the hot cookies, fresh from the oven, with watering mouths.  So here is a gluten free version for those cookie moments.

Ingredients:
• 125ml rapeseed oil
• 115g dark chocolate
• 400g sugar
• 3 eggs, room temperature
• 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
• 250g rice flour
• 1/2 t xanthan gum
• 1/4 t salt
• 1 t gluten free baking powder

Melt chocolate, then mix with oil and sugar. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla, then add the rice flour , xanthan gum, salt and baking powder. Mix everything together, then stick the bowl in the fridge for a few hours.
Heat oven to 175°C.

Form dough into small balls (or larger balls for larger cookies)

Place them on a greased cookie sheet (about 3cm apart), Gently press them down onto the tray to make sure they spread into cookies, only gently though.  Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool and remove from tray with spatula while still soft.  They go firm when cool.

Thanks Mijn for this recipe.

Injured muscles? It’s your body, you deserve the luxury

Summer’s here, Wimbledon’s begun and local parks will be filled with the ‘poc’… ‘poc’… sound of tennis as inspired fans live out their own moment of glory. Hopefully there won’t be too much screaming. Not the screaming of the De Brito or Kournikova, but the cries of your doubles partner on the floor as he realises he’s just got cramp.

Of course there are various treatments to try when the muscle ache sets in. But the most important thing to do is to rest. The game is lost, take a break and live to fight another day.

It’s recommended that you don’t over-exert the injured muscle for at least two days and that you apply an ice pack as soon as you can. The ice is crucial because blood vessels have burst and you need to stop them causing further trouble to the muscle as soon as possible. Heat treatment can come later but ice should be used first for 20 minutes at a time. Ice also helps relax your muscle to stop the cramp. Compression with a bandage and raising up the injured area (above the heart) will also help get the injury under control.

Once you’ve done this you can begin to work on bringing down the inflammation. There are lots of ways to do this from luxurious baths to snacking on pineapple and getting a good night’s rest. Basically it seems like getting a sport’s injury is just a good excuse to treat yourself (which, of course, is what really got me interested in writing this blog).

There’s obvious stuff like taking asprin and ibuprofen, but don’t let that stop you pleading to your loved one to provide a satisfying massage. The stimulus takes your mind off the pain, reduces stiffness and increases blood flow. Get your them to rub in some tiger balm or comfrey root cream too (Seven Seas do a product called Comfrelieve – comfrey has been found to work well with ibuprofen). Other options include a mint rub or arnica balm – all have the effect of having a cooling or warming effect which effectively distracts from the pain. A hot bath or heat pack does the same thing as a massage and, like a good massage, takes away the lactic acid which contributes to the pain.

While you are in that bath try adding some essential oils from peppermint, rosemary or ginger – all are noted for their anti-inflammatory properties. Another herb that is said to work wonders is St John’s Wort, but truly, the list of naturally occurring anti-inflammatory treatments is endless ranging from tumeric to lavender, from emu oil to wild yam. Epsom salts dissolved in the bath will also melt away some of that pain – they contain magnesium which can be absorbed through the skin and is crucial to helping muscles work.

And, finally, feast on some slices of fresh pineapple – it contains bromelain which is regarded as a powerful anti-inflammatory. It’s not certain how much pineapple you’d need to eat for it to have suffficient effect, but after such a hard, gruelling game of tennis, I’m pretty sure you don’t need much of an excuse to treat that poor bruised body of yours, now do you?

Chocolate does it again

You may have heard the dieter’s joke that vegetables are good for you – chocolate is made from a vegetable, therefore chocolate is good for you.

But in the press today there’s a report that dark chocolate could help with Parkinson’s disease. Noting that patients with Parkinson’s tend to ‘self-medicate’ by eating more dark chocolate than usual, doctors theorise that dark chocolate increases dopamine levels to help control your body’s coordination.

I don’t think journalists are ever going to tire of reporting on the bounteous merits of ‘the food of the gods’.

Of course, if you are a chocolate lover, you will already know that chocolate is beneficial to your health – your mental health at least. It’s high in antioxidants, particularly flavonols (if it’s plain chocolate) which help reduce your blood pressure. And Italian researchers have noted how dark chocolate helps diabetics by improving the body’s ability to metabolise sugar. It helps you sleep better, feel happier, increases your memory, boosts your energy, reduces joint pain, pushes down your cholesterol and provides towards your daily amount of iron. I even read that cocoa has anti-bacterial agents which can help fight tooth decay! By now you have to understand that my tongue is firmly in my cheek (tasting the last remnants of that Green & Black’s chocolate bar).

Wonders will never cease.

Chocolate, I hear you nodding greedily, is very serious stuff. The latest appeal for chocolate health research received 1,500 applicants in its first day, the Scots wanted to tax it, farming communities survive or die by it. Even kissing is surpassed by it (apparently it makes your heart beat faster).

And vegans rejoice too, producers like Montezuma’s, make a chocolate that is dairy-free and whey-free.

But whatever your indulgence, do take time to enjoy it.

I’m pleased to say there is no bad news in this blog. Naturally, none of this blissful bulletin is necessarily going to help you lose weight, but sometimes there are more important things at stake. And personally, I’m a great fan of the maxim, “Save the Earth, it’s the only planet with chocolate.”

Stolen Lives report challenges commonly held beliefs on Hay fever

Press Release posted on behalf of Allergy UK

allergy uk
allergy uk

During National Allergy Week in May 2009 Allergy UK carried out a survey in association with STÉRIMAR ® to discover when and how hay fever starts and impacts on sufferers. The results from the survey produced in the latest of the ‘Stolen Lives’ series clearly show that many of the long held beliefs on hay fever are no longer proving to be the case.
• Myth Buster – hay fever is regarded as starting in childhood yet almost half of the 1200 respondents from 12 different   countries report that their symptoms developed as adults.
• Myth Buster – it is generally presumed that hayfever symptoms are usually well controlled yet less than half stated that their symptoms were adequately controlled.
Given that hayfever increases the risk of developing asthma this is a very worrying trend and there must be future recognition that hay fever is not the trivial condition it is currently regarded as. Hayfever is by far the most common allergic condition which can lead to long term illness yet sufferers receive the least help in the diagnosis and management of their condition.
The Stolen Lives report gives the sufferers perspective on their condition and how it impacts on them particularly on their work, education and family lives. Over 75% of people reported that they would prefer a natural alternative and 72% would be happy for themselves or their child to try a natural product to help them relieve their symptoms.* However, the importance of managing symptoms effectively usually means using a combination of natural treatments, medication, and steps to reduce exposure to triggers. For instance, if you go out shower and wash your hair on return; change your clothing before coming back into the living room or bedroom; keep windows closed when indoors and overnight whilst you are sleeping and cleaning and clearing pollen from the nose with a natural sea water nasal spray.
The hayfever sufferers desperately need to be listened to.
Download a copy of the Stolen Lives 6 report
For further information contact:-
Jules Payne
jules@allergyuk.org

Allergy UK is a national medical charity established to represent the views and needs of people with allergy, food intolerance and chemical sensitivity.
*Stolen Lives 6 – The Allergic Rhinitis Report: The Impact of allergic rhinitis on people’s lives. Survey of people with allergic rhinitis; Allergy UK. The report has been conducted in June 2009 in association with http://www.sterimarnasal.co.uk
Facts:-

• 20% of the population are affected by allergic rhinitis.**
• 1 in 3 of the population will suffer from allergy at some time in their life.
• The number of sufferers from rhinitis has tripled in the last 20 years.**
• Asthma, Rhinitis and Eczema have trebled in the last 20 years.**
• 95% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen.**
• 25% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to birch pollen.**
• 10% of children and adults under the age of 45 have 2 or more allergies.**
• 13 million people below the mid forties have 2 or more allergies**
**Royal College of Physicians 2003 Report Allergy the Unmet Need

Good oral health, select your weapons

In our mouths are bacteria galore. What is a good oral health regime which will combat the baddies, but not obliterate the goodies?
Our mouths, teeth and toothbrushes are full of hundreds and hundreds of bacteria. This bacteria feasts on the food particles on our teeth. As a by-product of this feasting acid is produced, and it is this acid which eats into the enamel on our teeth, creating cavities. The bacteria are also responsible for the smell caused by the release of a sulphur compound.

So let’s declare war on the bacteria in our mouths.

A good oral health regime includes mouthwash, brushing, and flossing. So let’s start with the mouthwash.

BRUSHING-195
Using a mouthwash would not be sufficient on it’s own, but as part of a plan it can be really effective in conquering bad breath and promoting oral health. Mouthwash can be used before brushing, after brushing, or both, and can be used after meals as an added extra. The important thing is to keep the mouthwash in your mouth for around a minute and not to swallow it. Do this morning and evening and the war has begun. Mouthwash on it’s own only eliminates the bacteria for a short time, but it does get into the crevices where bacteria may hide really effectively.

Which mouthwash?

Even though you are wanting to kill bacteria, try to avoid the use of harsh chemicals and alcohol. Alcohol free mouthwashes are preferable. A good natural mouthwash may be based on aloe vera, xylitol which strengthens teeth enamel, natural peppermint or Salvadora Persica extract which can soften the plaque prior to brushing. The Weleda medicinal gargle and mouthwash is a particularly good choice if you feel you need something medicated. This mouthwash/gargle helps sore throats, tender gums and mouth ulcers as well as doing the trick with bacteria. Another fantastic product is the Dead Sea Magik Fresh ‘n White which doubles as a toothpaste and mouthwash – it is based on the minerals from the Dead Sea and has antiseptic properties. Try to avoid the mouthwashes which include saccharin or sugar as these are really a contradiction. Take a look at the recommended range of mouthwashes.

Brush for 2 minutes
Sorry if it sounds like I’m teaching my granny to clean her teeth, but I never realised before researching this just what a war against bacteria was going on in our mouths. Giving our teeth a good brush is the crucial factor. The aim: to remove all food particles and all bacteria hiding in the nooks and crannies. Brushing for 30 seconds or so is not enough so really dig out those baddies from every surface of your teeth.

Toothbrushes and tongue cleaner

When selecting your toothbrush you may want to consider the ionic toothbrush, the most scientific solution to tooth cleaning. Normal toothbrushes rely on friction and the abrasive ingredients of toothpaste to remove the plaque but ionic toothbrushes can work without toothpaste. Ionic toothbrushes temporarily change the magnetic charge of the tooth enamel and the plaque so that the plaque is attracted to the bristles of the brush and is removed easily. Unlike electric toothbrushes there is no noticeable movement or vibration, but there is an imperceptible current running through the toothbrush which causes the change. They are really effective. The brush lasts for several years and changeable heads are available. No charging or battery replacement necessary.

The ionic toothbrush has been seen to be really effective in the removal of plaque (the main cause of bad breath and gum disease) and is suitable even for sensitive teeth.

Another little gadget is the tongue cleaner. Sounds revolting doesn’t it? Not as revolting as the many many bacteria which house themselves in your tongue between the taste buds. So, to get rid of them try the tongue cleaner, which is really effective, or give your tongue a good scrub with your toothbrush regularly.

Which toothpaste?

Toothpastes act as an abrasive and lubricant to aid the cleaning process. What goes into the toothpaste on top of these factors varies enormously and a great selection of toothpastes are now available. Natural toothpastes abound but here are a few to note: Aloe Dent Sensitive is made with aloe vera juice flavoured with natural peppermint. A good choice if you experience hot and cold sensitivity. Aloe Dent also do one of the best ever toothpastes for soothing and whitening which combines all the health properties of aloe vera and tea tree with the whitening properties of silica. Dentie is a product the Japanese developed before anyone thought of toothpaste. It is made from charred eggplant and sea salt and is available as a powder and a paste. Dentie is probably the most natural option ever if you are wanting to avoid nasties but still hit the plaque head on. Green People are hot on great natural pastes and include children’s, sensitive and fennel (a brilliant alternative flavour to mint varieties).

Should you choose a toothpaste with fluoride or without fluoride? Conventionally fluoride is thought to be good for your teeth, but there are concerns about the side effects of too much fluoride. (Also some people are intolerant to fluoride). This is a big debate which I won’t go into, but both are available from the toothpaste range. There is even a women’s toothpaste which not only includes excellent natural ingredients you would expect in a toothpaste, but includes black cohosh, sage, red clover, horse chestnut and agnus castus – all great for natural balance, all in a toothpaste.

There are salt toothpastes, and gel toothpastes, ratanhia toothpastes (soothes and naturally strengthens the gums) and eucalyptus toothpastes, just too many to mention. Take a look here to select the paste of your choice, and then just brush (not too hard but thoroughly) for 2 minutes twice a day.

Gum disease linked heart disease, strokes, diabetes and infertility

Bad oral health can affect our general health and well-being as well as robbing us of our smile.

The British Dental Health Foundation recently conducted a National Dental Survey . The conclusions of the research are shocking and have gone so far as to associate gum disease to potential risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, premature births, low birth-weight babies and, in recent early studies, infertility. These are astounding implications and Dr Nigel Carter (the Foundation’s Chief Executive) states in conclusion ‘The public is put at risk by poor dental hygiene habits yet awareness of these risks is very low. Gum disease in particular has been linked to serious health issues. It affects most people at some point in their lives, so there is no excuse for ignoring good dental hygiene.”

Cleaning teeth
Brush twice a day

Such important conclusions that have wide spread effects need to be broadcast a little more widely.  The basic advice of the British Health Foundation is to:

a) brush your teeth twice a day with a flouride toothpaste (there is a massive debate about flouride that I will touch on in a separate post)

b) floss daily

c) avoid sweet sticky foods

d) have regular dental check ups

Of those responding to some research carried out by the foundation 33% did not follow the advice to brush twice daily, 8% (equivalent to nearly five million people in the UK), admitted they had no NHS dentist and were not inclined to find one.  I wonder if they know the darker side of not caring for your mouth and teeth?

Research carried out which looks specifically at the systemic links between oral health and general health has come up with these frightening conclusions:

Facts, figures and details taken from British Dental Health Foundation

Heart Health

Good oral healthcare and treatment for gum disease can prevent the bacteria that cause thickening of the arteries. (Piconi, Trabattoni et al, FASEB Journal Dec 08 Italian/UK study in FASEB Journal)

Gum disease can be linked to heart disease. (September 2008 – scientists present the Society of General Microbiology’s autumn meeting with two new studies illustrating this.

There are 700 million oral bacteria among these the harmful bacteria can bond and act against the immune system or antibiotics, increasing chances of heart disease even in the case of fit healthy people (Jenkinson, Kerrigan et al – Uni Bristol/RCS Dublin Sep 08)

Oral bacteria causes atherosclerosis, or ‘furring’ of the arteries, as oral bacteria’s similarity to proteins which cause arteries to fur confuses the immune system. (These findings were presented by University of Otago’s Professor Greg Seymour).

There is strong evidence that treating gum disease can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Inflammation in the mouth has a measurable effect in the bloodstream and the rest of the body. In trials, once the gum infection was eradicated the risk of heart attacks and future blood clots was reduced. (Taylor, Tofler et al; Journal of Dental Research, January 2006) * Jan 2006 – PERICAR trial).

Diabetes

There is evidence of links from periodontal disease to type 2 diabetes. Of 9,000 participants in the study 800 developed diabetes. Those with high levels of periodontal disease were twice as likely to develop diabetes. (Demmer, Desvarieux et al, Diabetes Care November 2008 – Columbia University. USA).

A link has been found between gum disease and pre-diabetes, often a precursor to type-2 diabetes. Dr. Carla Pontes Andersen said: “The gum inflammation seen in periodontitis can allow bacteria and inflammatory substances from the dental structures to enter the bloodstream. These processes seem to affect blood sugar control.” (Pontes Anderson, Flyybjerg et al; Journal of Periodontology)

Premature births

December 2008 – researchers in Finland question 328 women on oral health and pregnancy, those who needed urgent dental treatment, suggesting poor oral health, were 2.5 times more likely to miscarry. (Heimonen et al, Blackwell Publishing)

July 2007 – Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Chile finds link between gum disease and premature births. One in three women at risk of premature labour presented with gum disease bacteria in their amniotic fluid, as well as their mouth.

Strokes

In June 2006 scientists found that gum disease may contribute to clogged carotid arteries leading to an increased risk of a stroke. Blocked carotid arteries were much more common in people who had gum disease. (Chung, Friedlander et al, General Session & Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research)

Infertility

In February of this year a pilot study on 56 men  suggests links between gum disease and low sperm counts. ( Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine and Bikur Holim Hospital-based scientists)

If that has scarred you into visiting the dentist or you need more information you can contact the National Dental Helpline for free and impartial expert advice on 0845 063 1188 Monday to Friday.

Green & Black’s and the dairy free predicament

Green & Black’s have had to change their labelling of their products previously labelled  non-dairy, lactose free and vegan. Here is the statement in full from Green & Black’s


To whom it may concern.

Green & Black’s announced changes to the dairy allergy statements on the wrappers of our dark chocolate bars in. There has been no change to the recipe of these bars; the change is simply in the way in which the risks of dairy cross contamination are being communicated on bar wrappers. The outline behind this decision is explained below:
As you may be aware, there are no milk ingredients in the recipe of our Dark chocolate bars and this continues to be the case. However, the bars are produced on the same production line as Milk chocolate bars within our range. The bars have previously, therefore, carried the following statement to reflect this: ‘Manufactured in a factory that handles dairy ingredients.’
A recent audit revealed that traces of milk residues can still be found on manufacturing equipment despite intensive cleaning. Therefore, in order to ensure that consumers are at minimum risk, our allergen statements will be changed and we will clearly state on pack that milk residues may be present in dark chocolate bars across the range. This will be indicated by the inclusion of ‘Organic Whole Milk Powder’ within the ingredients list itself and a ‘Contains Milk Ingredient’ statement on pack. The Vegan labelling was also consequently removed from pack. The new packaging has already been printed and is filtering through to supermarkets. To re-iterate, this labelling change will affect all dark chocolate products within our range.
Therefore, there is actually no change to the risk to allergy-sufferers as the recipes and ingredients that go into the making of the bars have not changed. What we are now clearly stating on pack is that we cannot guarantee the absence of milk. It is almost certainly going to be present – albeit at a low level. This packaging change ensures that consumers, especially milk allergy sufferers, are aware of the possibility and this represents a positive step in consumer communication.
We are eager to inform consumers of this change to prevent any possible concern that may arise. Therefore, this information is displayed clearly on our website at http://www.greenandblacks.com and we have been working with organisations such as Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign and the Vegan Society to ensure that this may be clearly communicated to allergy sufferers and vegans alike.
Separate dedicated lines for our dark and milk chocolate bars would be the only way to eliminate the risks of dairy cross contamination in the dark chocolate. At present, the restrictions for organic segregation and the design of plant we need for our type of chocolate restricts the availability of equipment. We are very certain however that we must work towards alternative equipment and we are planning to provide a dedicated production line by the end of 2009. Our hope is that we can make product available early in 2010.
I hope that this information, along with the attached FAQ’s and image of the new labelling, is of some help to you to further clarify our position. However, if you have any further queries or comments at all, please do not hesitate to contact me again. I have also duly noted your contact details and please be assured that I will contact you again should there be any changes to our dairy allergen labelling in future.
Green & Black’s Organic
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