While I don’t normally dish about my personal life on the blog, I’m going to make an exception because this past weekend was anything but normal. As some of you know, I’m getting married this coming August, so the amazing women in my family planned an extravagant bridal shower. I’m talking photo booth wall, veils for all the guests, a trolley to take us around my hometown of St. Paul, MN... there really was no detail left unturned. They even accommodated my healthy eating habits and served roasted veggies and a huge kale salad! It was spectacular. Or so I hear...
I never made it.
It wasn’t for lack of effort. I spent 12 hours ‘traveling’ only to end up back in the same spot. Two severely delayed (then eventually cancelled) flights later, I was tired, crabby, and trying to hold back symptoms of bridezilla. (She never came out, don’t worry). But I guess when Mother Nature wants to set blizzard records in April, you let her do her thing.
During those hours spent at the airport, I was worried that I’d give in and go to the bar to pass the time with a mediocre glass of red wine. While it was Friday night (and I do enjoy letting loose on the weekends), I knew it wasn’t the time to imbibe. Alone, frustrated, and a little anxious? Not good can come from adding booze to the mix.
Instead, I grabbed the unopened book from my purse and started reading. And couldn’t really stop...
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Max Lugavere’s Genius Foods, do yourself a favor and buy it now, right here. It’s a life-changing, incredibly written book that scientifically explains how the foods we eat directly affect our ability to focus, learn, remember, create, analyze new ideas, and maintain a balanced mood. I simply couldn’t put it down.
I won’t give away all of the “genius foods” that Max unveils, but I was super excited to read about one in particular: Cacao. During my no-caffeine stint, I had been drinking hot cacao elixirs almost daily (recipe below). They did an excellent job of replacing my morning warm beverage, and I’d heard that cacao was a “superfood” of sorts...but I honestly wasn’t 100% sure why it had such a good reputation. Turns out, raw cacao is so much more than your average bar of dark chocolate.
Hot Cacao Collagen Elixir
2.5 tbsp raw cacao
1 scoop Vital Proteins Marine Collagen
1 cup hot water
1 tbsp grass-fed ghee or coconut oil
1 tbsp MCT Oil
Mix it up in your blender and enjoy! Keep reading for some of the amazing properties of these ingredients.
Benefits of Cacao
By far the largest benefit of cacao is the high levels of antioxidants (polyphenols) it contains. These polyphenols play a leading role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancers and cognitive aging - as Max explains in his book. “Cacao contains the highest plant-based source of iron and magnesium, increases focus, alertness, and athletic performance, supports healthy functioning of the pancreas, detoxifies the liver, acts as an antidepressant, and facilitates anti-aging.” - Eric Cooper, CEO of Pressed Vibrance.
Better yet, cacao successfully shuts off hunger hormones better than any other food does, making it one of the best weight loss foods out there. After doing some more research, I learned that cacao does not elevate blood sugar in the same way caffeine would - replacing my morning matcha or coffee was extremely beneficial after all!
The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa
If you’re wondering, I haven’t been spelling it wrong. There is a difference between cocoa and cacao! Cacao beans are found inside the “fruit” of the Cacao Tree. You may have seen cacao nibs or powdered cacao on the shelves of your health foods store. In these forms, cacao is in its most raw, uncooked, unprocessed state, which is exactly the way we like it. After the beans are cleaned, roasted and processed, they are called cocoa. While cocoa is still a powerful antioxidant (though not nearly as powerful as cacao), most of the nutritional benefits are lost once the bean has been processed.
The Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
The health world is buzzing about medicinal mushrooms - and for good reason. The benefits of Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Cordyceps are far-reaching, and we highly suggest you begin to add them to your pantry.
In this recipe, I’ve incorporated Reishi, an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation, promote longevity, seek out imbalances in the body, and even fight neurodegenerative diseases. These magic mushrooms are also known to help with digestive issues, fatigue, liver disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, asthma, and can even slow the growth of cancer cells.
Why Add Collagen?
One of our favorite Chicago-based companies, Vital Proteins, makes it so easy for us to incorporate collagen into our daily routines. While many proteins can be difficult to digest (whey is a no-no for my body!), collagen actually improves digestion and overall gut health because the amino acids in collagen are the same as the ones that our digestive tracts are composed of!
In addition to gut health, collagen helps with glowing skin and maintaining a more youthful appearance by restoring the skin’s moisture and improving the elasticity, tone and vibrancy of our skin. Incorporating collagen into one’s diet promotes joint, cartilage and bone health, increased athletic performance, and even deeper sleep.
I’ve been loving the Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Peptides lately [no, it doesn’t taste fishy] because they are highly bioavailable - meaning they are easily absorbed into the body. Interested in trying it for yourself? You can buy yours here, but please don’t forget to let us know what you think!