Saturday, November 1, 2014

All About Chocolate Cravings

Goodness, I'm such a chatty Cathy lately! Just posted last night and here I am again!

Well, I have a lot to say. I realized I need to update you on week 2 of the 21 Day Sugar Detox. Happily, it went much better than week one. That was *such* a crappy week. But week 2 has gone much better. I'm not even missing sugar.

Of course, then Halloween comes along. I'm looking at the kids' stash last night and really, most of it isn't even looking that good to me. Except the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Normally, I Mommy-tax the living daylights out of those. Darling Son #1 tasted his very first PB cup last night because typically, I eat them before he's even had a chance to try them. (I know. That's bad.)

Even so.... I, ah, might have fallen off the wagon and had one... or... maybe two.

Honestly, they weren't even that good. I don't know why I had the second one in light of this fact, but there you go. The funny thing about stuff like this is the memory of it is better than the actual item. When I was pregnant with Darling Son #2, sweets made me sick the whole 37 weeks 5 days. I'd look at sweets and think, I bet that's tasty. Then I'd eat it and realize it still wasn't. Funny how the mind works.

This brings me to Almond Butter Cups!
This is one of the not-sweet treats in the 21 Day Sugar Detox. You can find the recipe here.

The first time I bit in to one of these bad boys (good boys?) my taste buds freaked a little bit. I *thought* it was going to be sweet, but it wasn't. It was still strangely satisfying, though. I've made this recipe a few times over the past however-many-days (15? maybe?) The fats are mostly good saturated fats from coconut oil and butter from grass-fed cows. The amount of almond butter is fairly small, so  you're not getting a crazy-lot of polyunsaturated fats, which we talked about in week 1.

And yes, I called saturated fat 'good.' I'll write more about saturated fat another time, but for now I really want to talk about the cacao powder.


We've talked about chocolate before, and all the health benefits contained in good quality, dark chocolate. One I didn't mention is magnesium.

Magnesium is a mineral, and it's very important. Some 300 functions in the body are dependent on magnesium, and it turns out, many of us aren't getting enough of it. Poor mineral content in soil is part of the problem, but the main one is absorption--I read that we absorb only about 40-50% of the magnesium we consume.

According to Dr. Elson Haas, author of the book Staying Healthy with Nutrition, "To function optimally, magnesium must be balanced in the body with calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium chloride." Vitamin D levels also affect magnesium, and since many people supplement with vitamin D and calcium, in particular, this can throw off the balance of these other minerals. This is a big part of the reason I try to get my nutrients from food, rather than isolated supplements.

There are other reasons we don't absorb magnesium--drinking soft water, alcohol, caffeine and general sugar consumption can affect how well we assimilate magnesium. Phosphoric acid found in diet sodas also hinders magnesium absorption. (Diet Coke is a 'sometimes' food!)

The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is between 300-400 milligrams, but many people who know more than I do suggest it should be much higher--closer to 700 milligrams per day. Happily, if you consume more than your body needs, it seems you just pee it out, so there's little worry about overdoing it.

I really became interested in magnesium a couple of weeks ago. I was wicked sore after my barre3 class, so I took an Epsom Salt bath. Epsom Salts are magnesium sulfate, and taking baths is one way to up magnesium intake through your skin. I noticed I slept really well that night, so I tried it again the following night and wow! Another great night. I don't know that a couple of Epsom Salt baths really did that much for my mag. levels, but it turns out insomnia can be related to magnesium deficiency. So I was taking hot Epsom Salt baths every night until my skin kind of revolted, so I'm looking into other things.

Anyhoo, what does this have to do with almond butter cups? Cocoa is rich in magnesium, which is why chocolate cravings might be an indication of magnesium deficiency. Of course, oatmeal is also rich in magnesium and I think I can safely say I've never craved oatmeal. The first time someone told me about the chocolate/magnesium craving thing, I figured she was just trying to make me feel better. "You're not a glutton! You're just need magnesium!" (Maybe it's a bit of both?)

Other good sources of magnesium include Brazil nuts (along with several other nuts and seeds), avocado and bananas. So I made a magnesium smoothie! Here's the recipe:

1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
1/4 avocado
1 small banana, preferably frozen
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder*

*I've found raw cacao powder for the best price at TJMaxx, of all places. Locals: please don't go clean out the shelves on me, k?

Toss all ingredients in a blender and mix. You may want to thin it a bit or add ice cubes. Mine came out quite thick:

It was almost like ice cream! ('Almost' being the operative word.)

I have a few other tricks up my sleeve, so expect to hear more about magnesium. In the meantime, if you find yourself tempted to dip into the cheap Hershey-type chocolate in your kids' Halloween baskets, try the smoothie or some almond butter cups. Maybe you're deficient in magnesium! I can promise, the cheap chocolate isn't going to help you on that one.

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