Have you had a gorgeous, healthy summer? – I hope so. Kale & Cocoa has had a bit of a break while we’ve been looking after our children, caring for elderly relatives and cooking up lots of delicious ‘Eat Well, Age Well’ recipes for future blog posts. Although I love that sense of purpose that comes with the start of Autumn I do also feel a bit miserable that summer is nearly over. So I’m determined to make the most of the last rays of sunshine and do everything I can to keep positive and cheerful in the days ahead.
At Kale & Cocoa we’re big fans of whole grains and are trying to cut refined carbs like white sugar, pasta and rice out of our diets as much as possible. So we were interested to see research recently which linked a diet high in refined carbs to depression in women over 50.
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Centre looked at the medical records of over 90,000 post-menopausal women and found that those who ate higher GI foods were 22% more likely to have depression. GI refers to the glycaemic index of individual food stuffs – essentially the extent to which a food raises sugar levels in the body. Refined carbs raise our sugar levels faster and higher than wholegrains and fibrous foods, resulting in that all too familiar crash when sugar levels start to return to normal. Whole foods take longer to digest so don’t send us on that whole spike-then- crash rollercoaster. The team also found that a diet high in lactose, fibre, fruit and veg was ‘significantly associated with a lower risk of developing depression’. Interestingly, Assistant Professor James Gangwisch, who led the research, gave up sugar years ago because it made him feel bad. But looking at the research, I can’t work out whether he and his team considered whether the women in question had depression before they started eating more refined carbs and sugar. I wonder if they thought about comfort eating and how easy it is to reach for the biscuit tin when life starts to get on top of us? Probably not.
There’s plenty of research in a similar vein. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which followed 3500 middle-aged participants who consumed diets loaded with either whole foods or processed foods found that – guess what? – the processed food group had a 58% higher risk of depression. Of course, depression is caused by a multitude of factors, but the links between diet and our mindset, particularly as we age, are hard to ignore.
I’m always intrigued by the sugar industry’s argument that sugar isn’t bad for us, it just doesn’t provide any nutrients other than energy. This totally disregards a vast amount of research, and the simple fact that our bodies use up nutrients while digesting food, just as they do for all other bodily functions. So the process of digesting sugar depletes our bodies of vitamins and minerals which are not replaced. Hence the term ‘empty calories’.
But we all like a sweet treat from time to time and this week’s recipe is just that – but with plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals too. The method for making this banana-based ice cream is just genius. I can’t claim it’s original – there are a million variations out there – but the simple fact is this: slice a banana, freeze it, then whizz in a food processor and it will taste exactly like rich, creamy ice cream. But without the refined sugar and fat.
On a different note, if you are new to Kale & Cocoa then Welcome! And please do sign up for our regular weekly blog posts. We promise not to spam you – we’re busy working mums and only post once a week – but we will bring you all the latest ‘Eat Well, Age Well’ news with delicious, simple recipes to match.
And if you’re a regular reader, look out for this week’s Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella. I was thrilled to represent Kale & Cocoa in the magazine’s collaboration with Dove Youthful Vitality and discuss ‘what I’ve learnt with age’ alongside some brilliant and inspirational women, including Dame Jenni Murray, Caryn Franklin, Bridget Sojourner from Fabulous Fashionistas, Lorraine Kelly, Dame Kelly Holmes, positive psychologist Miriam Akhtar and British Beauty Blogger Jane Cunningham. A real privilege.
BLACK FOREST BANANA ‘ICE CREAM’ Serves 4
- 4 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen for at least an hour
- 1 tin of stoned cherries, drained and frozen (I found them in Tesco)
- 3 tbs raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
- 1.5 tbs almond butter
- 100ml almond milk (or regular milk)
- Toppings – fresh berries or cherries, coconut flakes, cacao nibs or whatever else you fancy
When you are ready to eat (this isn’t a dessert that hangs around) throw the first four ingredients into a food processor and whizz. If it’s not shifting smoothly add in some milk, adding more until you have a soft scoop consistency. Serve immediately with toppings of your choice.