If you are a loyal reader (thank you, I love you!), you'll know I'm on an anti-sugar campaign. Not only due to our current efforts at a Whole30, but because of my long-running struggles with candida and leaky gut.
If you aren't familiar, here's a basic rundown...
Candida (AKA candidiasis or the c. albicans strain) is a yeast infection that most commonly occurs in the gut. This strain of yeast is present in all of us but is only diagnosed at candidiasis when the presence of the yeast grows beyond normal ranges. Most commonly (present day), this is caused by antibiotics, which kill off your good gut flora in an attempt to kill the bad stuff too, allowing an overgrowth of c. albicans. It can also be caused or made worse by things like stress, a highly acidic diet (too many processed foods, including dairy, canned foods, hydrogenated oils, etc), or a parasitic infection (my personal situation), just to name a few.
The most common symptoms of candida include: fatigue, gassiness, bloating, sugar cravings, and weight gain. Many of the GI symptoms will demonstrate much like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and can often be misdiagnosed by mainstream MDs who are not familiar with candida. This was the case for me, starting back in 2007 when I returned from a 6-mo stay in Honduras. I'd contracted a parasite, which had infected my gut so strongly that I was severely lacking in good gut flora, an environment perfect a candida overgrowth.
I saw so many doctors, initially holistic or naturopathic (sadly, none of which payed much attention to the candida or gave me any diet recommendations), but eventually resorted to a Dr. at a parasite specialty center here in town. This Dr. urged me to take antibiotics and it my desperation to end the then 2-year streak of symptoms, I gave in. Immediately following a run through 2 different antibiotics, I began to notice I could no longer eat mushrooms without having an anaphylactic reaction. And about 2 months after taking the antibiotics (summer of 2009), I had a pretty serious attack that ended up being the very last time I ate mushrooms to date. :(
All of this led me to an eagerness to learn as much as I could about candida and what I now know to be leaky gut. Leaky gut is a condition where candida growth increases to a point that it causes a weakening and inflammation of your intestinal wall, and a resulting permeability of your intestinal tract (or the GI mucosa, as cited here in Wikipedia). This penetration of your GI tract leaks partially digested food particles into the blood, triggering a strong immune response to these "foreign" particles that are not typically found in your blood. The result is often increased insensitivity to certain foods and in some cases (like mine), a full blown anaphylactic food allergy.
What's sad is that if you do not know you have a candida problem OR you know you do but are not aware of how to treat it, you are continuing to cause greater food insensitivities in your body every time you eat. One important step I finally took just recently was to get an IgG allergy test. Now, to clarify, this is different from the IgE scratch allergy test that many people are familiar with. IgE measures immediate response (like my anaphylactic response to mushrooms), where IgG measures the body's long-term resistance, or "intolerance," to foods (generally a reaction that happens 24-48 hrs AFTER it's consumed). IgG reactions, being much more subtle, are hard to pin point on your own, being that you'll eat a food and the symptoms are so delayed that you feel crappy (headache, mild GI discomfort, poor quality sleep, moodiness/hormone imbalance) and you just can't figure out why.
The results of my IgG test have shed a fair amount of light on the path I need to be on to better health. From the start of our Whole30, I've eliminated those foods that scored highest on my test and the results have been astronomical. Not only did I eliminate sugar, one of the first steps to take if you suspect you have candida issues, but those other foods that have been wearing my body down and keeping my gut from achieving the balance I truly need. My objective at this point is to avoid these foods for a period of 3-6 months to allow my body to heal and then begin to reintroduce them one at a time to see how I handle them.
I share this information with you in hopes that it will reach someone's ears that may be struggling with some of the same issues. If you have even the slightest inclination that you may be dealing with a candida overgrowth, this website is very helpful to give more info and direction. Plus, don't hesitate to message me and I'll be happy to share more of the things that I've done to find healing.
So today I share a recipe that I'm pretty proud of, both for it's sugar-free-ness but also because it truly satisfies the chocolate lover in me. In an effort to make more truly sugar-free recipes available here at Bare Root, I delved into the world of date pastes this weekend. It took a little experimentation but I found a consistency I'm happy with and that sweetens this Raw Dark Chocolate Tart sufficiently. Just dates and water pureed together and you've got a WONDERFUL substitution for agave, honey, or maple syrup.
The crust can be made with any nut you have on hand. As usual, I went straight to the hazelnut. Partly because I had some meal/flour to use up. The texture of the tart is like a thick, rich ganache. If you substitute coconut oil for the coconut butter, you'll lose the benefits of the fiber in the butter but gain a smoother consistency, like a softer ganache. Both are equally rich and delicious but I gravitate to the butter because I know the extra fiber will offset the sweetness of the dates and lessen the blow to my blood sugar. Also, fiber is more candida friendly! And speaking of fiber: if divided into 14 slices (it's very rich so you may even be able to get more slices than that out of it), there are over 8 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per slice!
Ok, well if you are still reading, thank you thank you. How was your weekend? Do you have room for some Raw Dark Chocolate Tart with Fresh Strawberries in your life right now? I hope so.
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Yields: 1 9-inch tart, approx 14 slices
For the crust:
1 1/2 c. hazelnut meal/flour (or 2 c. raw hazelnuts-see below)
1/2 c. raw cacao nibs (can sub 1/4 c. raw cacao powder)
3 medjool dates
1/4 c. extra virgin coconut oil
1/4 t. sea salt
In the bowl of a food processor, combine hazelnut meal, cacao nibs, and sea salt and pulse for about 30 seconds to break up the cacao nibs. Add the dates and coconut oil and process for 60 seconds, or until the dates are fully incorportate and the mixture sticks together when pinched. Press evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan (with removable base) and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
To use raw hazelnuts: Place 2 c. frozen hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Be careful not to process for too long or it will turn into hazelnut butter. 2 c. hazelnuts will yield approx. 1 1/2 c. meal/flour.
For the filling:
1 c. raw coconut butter/manna (can sub coconut oil)
1 c. date paste (recipe below)
1 c. raw cocoa powder
1 T. vanilla extract
Place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor in the order listed (so cocoa powder is not on bottom). Process for 1-2 minutes, or until mixture is a smooth texture, much like a chocolate pudding. If using coconut oil, your mixture will be a bit thinner in consistency but will still set up well in the fridge.
Pour mixture into the chilled crust and smooth out with an offset spatula or back of a knife. Chill for 30+ minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with fresh strawberries (or any other fresh berry you have!). Keep refrigerated.
Homemade Date Paste
("Liquid" Sweetener Substitute)
Yields: 2 cups date paste
15 medjool dates (you will need more if you using the smaller noor dates)
1 1/2 c. filtered water
pinch of sea salt
Pit your dates and cut into chunks. Place in the carafe of a high-powered blender, along with the water. Soak for 10 minutes before blending. This will help yield a smoother paste. Blend on high speed for 1-2 minutes until mixture is very smooth.
Adjust the water based on your personal taste. The recipe listed here will give a slightly runny paste, close to the consistency of honey. Add less water to create a thicker paste for spreading.