Friday, 4 September 2015

Agar Jelly vs. Gelatin Jelly

  Who loves jelly? I do! kids do and the elderly too (no need to chew).
Going to a Chinese supermarket is always fascinating , especially for the cheap prices I pay for products that are considered posh, vegan-friendly or gourmet anywhere else.

So I came back with an old friend I discovered years ago in Chinatown, in London. The agar-agar strips!

 Agar-Agar is a polysaccharide  obtained from a particular algae. It has been traditionally used in Asia in Japanese desserts, like jellies and puddings.
 But also used in the laboratory to make agar plates (in the famous Petri dish) to culture bacterias:

The best part: Agar is basically fiber that absorbs a lot of water, so it is excellent for intestinal motility and if you need to reduce appetite too as it bulks up in your stomach.


It´s a question of preferences,nutritional interest for our diets, availability and cooking methods. Leaving aside controversies regarding gelatine extraction ... and vegetarianism option, of course.

Looking for more Protein? Gelatine is the option
Looking for more fiber and satiety? Agar-agar

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Science of Chocolate for chocofreaks !

I have recently discovered one of the most fascinating "cooking" books I have ever come across in many many many years: Jeff Potter´s compilation of recipes with some extremely interesting science behind it. This is Food Science for the masses.

 Ok, now I have more respect , even so, to chocolate makers because they have created one of the most addictive foods in the whole world. And after reading Potter´s book now I can understand even better why some chocolate bars are to die for while others... well.... are crap.

 .I want to sum up the highlights I found most interesting for food geeks. And to make food science a bit more fun, lets start with: Did you know...?

1- Tempering is not the same as melting: tempering the chocolate is actually melting the different fats present in cocoa butter.

Photo taken from

2- Melted and Tempered chocolate should be kept between 31.5 and 32.5 C . Go higher or lower and your chocolate will turn into a big piece of (===)

3- Cocoa butter is made of 6 different types(or structures) of fats! 
    Each one melts at different temperature. 

4- Each batch of cocoa butter will have different composition of fats. 

5-When chocolate cools down and solidifies, if the fat crystals that form the structure are mostly of the following forms :
Fat crystals 1-4 = Crap chocolate (rough gritty chocolate)
Fat crystals: 5-6= Smooth chocolate

Taken from

5-Chocolate exposed to extreme temperatures will turn into crap chocolate. And this is why some chocolate makers have a break during summer time, as it is very difficult to keep temperature stable for good quality chocolate. Don´t Refrigerate!!! Only if it´s too hot in summer, but ensure that you wrap it well and inside airtight container. 

6- Cocoa butter picks up the smell of whatever is around it. Careful with Onions, garlics and any other foods next to your chocolate. Some people like it though::

Japanese black garlic chocolates

 I wish I had studied more interesting subjects like this one at Uni. I guess wines, jams, pickles (really???) and cured hams were too important to skip in a Food Industries degree... 



Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Detox stupidity .... Warning : this post will make you eat all you haven't eaten in 1 week of juice diet

Where do I start??

Let's start with detox, the word: this popular word that essentially means elimination of impurities, toxins and undesirable residues from our body.

This is what a Detox Plan aims at. Right? And how is that done? Well, by basically reducing any solid food to the minimum (or to nothing) for 1 week (2, even 3!) and surviving with liquids, fresh (and very expensive) juices bought as part of the plan of the moment or made at home with those exotic foods that no tight budget can afford.

But, let's rewind.... so, isn't that elimination of toxins what is supposed to be already doing our organs? The Human Body is  a perfect machine, it really is (until you destroy it of course). We have 3 beautiful and complex organs> liver, kidney, lungs. They are the detox kings of our body. The metabolism recycles and eliminates harmful molecules. Yes, it is true that certain heavy metals and pesticides tend to accumulate if we eat too much of the foods that contain it. It is advised to limit the consumption of  red tuna and swordfish in pregnant or to eliminate spinach and chard in baby purees. But other than that, these detox diets talk about other toxins that I don't even know.

Why this new trend?
1- We live in the society of fast results
2- We feel polluted, dirty, exposed to contaminants and hormones ... eeewww

Detox Claims...Really???: Rapid fat loss! (not!)Feel happier in days! (and hungrier and hungrier too)

Who started this?

This guy: Joe Cross an obese Aussie that decided to on a extreme diet of 60 days with juice only, and documented it in a film Fat, sick and nearly dead.

Who is the winner?

The juice makers and the magazines!!! and all the emerging juice shops and bottled juice plans you can buy in a health store.
And of course the gurus of the detox plans and diets who claim to have regained all health and lost all weight.

Who is the loser?

Your wallet first and everyone desperate to regain health in 1 month... and stay like that forever
You earn your health and detox your body every single day of your life> Do you think that the woman or man that works out and eats healthy (almost) everyday and rarely drinks alcohol needs a detox diet? No, because he/she never overuses and saturates his/her body to the point of damaging the organs.
Your social life and energy to exercise(if you ever move your body) will be reduced to the minimum! No active workout can be carried out for days without giving the body some fuel. 

Put the best fuel to your Mercedes and drive it regularly. That's all!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Emotional Eating, how to tackle it / Comer por comer : Coaching para el Hambre emocional

These days, I'm back on track giving nutritional coaching to clients who are willing to change for good. Most situations my clients face regularly are often related to Emotional Eating. Or as we say it: Eating for the sake of eating.

What is it? Well, we have known those moments where we have seen ourselves binging , or quite the opposite, losing the appetite.And all this because of certain emotions.  But the most common case when there is a need to lose weight is binge eating (and drinking too).

 And here she comes, Bridget Jones, giving us all these scenes of comfort food, ice cream pot and endless fight for the weight and the love of her life. This recurrent scene is much more frequent in women than men and it's very powerful for our mind. 

The Best Tools for Emotional Eating

Ok, so I'm not going to sugar coat the reality, this emotional eating is NOT EASY to deal with! I know! But it is not impossible either! It's is a question of using the right tools and persevering , and most importantly knowing yourself well. Recognising your little demons wanting to sabotage your mind into thinking you want to eat everything.

What can we do??

1- Understand why we are acting that way. What's behind that chocolate bar? boredom? desperation? stress? sadness? real hunger? happiness? joy? love?(yes, love handles are called this way for a reason) If we keep track of all those foods we eat and write down on a paper the emotions we have when we binge, then we will recognise a pattern. It can be as detailed as the one below, courtesy of Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego.

 2- Alternatives: We know our weak points, but we have to find options, alternatives, things to do to forget the food and the fridge. Distract your mind! That's the key. after 5 minutes of focusing on other things, I can ensure you that the anxiety for food decreases. Breathing techniques, sports, yoga, leaving the house for a walk, reading a book, reading positive affirmations, brushing your teeth, calling a friend...

3- Ask yourself this question: Am I hungry or am I craving food? Use the Hunger Scale. A very useful tool to objectively measure your real state of fullness vs. hunger.  Aim to stay always in the safe central zone: 4-6   Remember that if you are too hungry you will only want to eat the most unhealthy foods you crave.

Nutritional Coaching is not psychology but it is facilitating ideas, tools, and finding solutions that you want to put in practice. With this post I hope you see the light to a new healthier you in coming months!


Estos dias retomo mis sesiones de coaching para un cambio positivo en la alimentación diaria. Mi trabajo como coach me inspira a ser cada vez más consciente de la mayoría de las situaciones que los clientes me presentan como causantes de sus desmadres en la alimentación.

Y una de las cosas más constantes en las sesiones de coaching es el Hambre Emocional.......

Dejo puntos suspensivos por que este tema seguro trae a la mente muchas situaciones en todos nosotros en las que nos hemos visto zampando o todo lo contrario, perdiendo el apetito, por una emoción. Pero sobre todo el caso más común cuando hay intentos de perder peso, es la ingesta compulsiva.

Está claro que Bridget Jones y todas esas películas no ayudan para nada a mejorar esto, por que la tarrina de 1L de helado de chocolate llorando a moco tendido es una imagen muy recurrente, y desde luego muy poderosa.

Herramientas Utiles

¿¿Y que podemos hacer??

- Pues primero es entender por que estamos actuando de esa forma. Es decir que hay detrás de esa tableta de chocolate. Es aburrimiento? Es frustración? Es tristeza? Es enfado? Es desesperación? Es estrés?
Si escribimos en un papel que emociones o pensamientos se nos pasan por la cabeza, empezamos a reconocer un patrón .Y una vez lo tenemos presente y consciente entonces es mucho más fácil no caer en la trampa.
- También hay que tener a mano alternativas: Es decir estrategias para distraer la mente: saca a pasear al perro, lee tu libro favorito,haz 5 respiraciones profundas, lee frases motivadoras, lee tu objetivo, ponte música, llama a tu madre o tu amiga o novio/a!, lávate los dientes, por que a los 5 minutos te aseguro que esas ganas de comer se han pasado.

Si estamos aburridos: buscamos una distracción con algún hobbie o tarea que nos guste hacer.
Si estamos estresados: respiramos profundo, escuchamos música relajante, meditamos, hacemos deporte, estiramos... todo lo que nos ayude a bajar el estrés.
Todo esto es un ejemplo que cada uno personaliza, por que las estrategias pueden ser muy diversas según la persona. Algunos se desestresan pegando puñetazos en el saco y otros haciendo yoga.

- Pregúntate: ¿Tengo hambre o ganas de comer? Esta pregunta la escribes bien grande y si la tienes bien visible al leerla tu mismo podrás responderte con sinceridad. Y de nuevo tomarás consciencia.

Utiliza la herramienta de la escala del hambre: Es una escala muy útil que valora de manera objetiva en que nivel de saciedad estás. Y verás que comer por hambre no es lo mismo que comer por atracón o gula. Lo importante es estar entre 5 y 7. Nunca estar por debajo de 3 ni por encima de 7. por que el efecto será muy malo para el control de las ganas de comer. Además cuando hay exceso de hambre se llega a la comida queriendo llenar el estómago de exceso de carbohidratos y grasa y fácilmente pasamos del 2 al inicio de la comida a 8.

 No soy psicóloga ni pretendo serlo aquí, pero por mi experiencia en coaching y conocimientos adquiridos a lo largo de estos años creo que estas útiles herramientas ayudarán mucho para una alimentación equilibrada. Así espero que este post haya sido de ayuda para facilitar el cambio a todas esas personas que no consigan salir del círculo vicioso. Sólo con esfuerzo se consigue el objetivo!

Feliz Lunes!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Best Functional Foods for New Year's Detox

Hippocrates said it well:

"Let Food be Thy Medicine & Thy Medicine be Thy Food"

 The food industry knows that we as consumers are more and more aware of our health and worried about consequences of bad choices in our shopping list. That´s why the functional foods started trending a few years ago.

What is a Functional Food?
They are scientifically proven ingredients and foods that help our health. So, i.e: Cholesterol lowering margarine is a functional food, and we are all familiar with Benecol and Pro.Activ

New Year = January Detox (at least for the first week...)

So what can we do to help our body recover from too much salt, alcohol, fat, sugar and too many parties?
Adding  certain functional foods to your shopping list could benefit your health during this month.

1-Stanols and Plant Sterols> Spreadable margarines that contain stanols have successfully lowered Total and LDL cholesterol (up to 10%) in blood.  This is a good option if you know you have saturated your body with not very healthy fats . Flora Pro.Activ and Benecol are the most popular functional margarines.


2-Prebiotics>They are non digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of particular bacteria in the gut that are beneficial to intestinal health (for example Lactobacillus sp., Bifidobacteria sp. and Lactococcus sp). The most popular ones FOS (Fructooligosacharides). Fruits and vegetables like leeks, chicory, asparagus, bananas, artichokes, garlic, onion, wheat, soybean and oats

3- Probiotics> They are healthy bacterias. Our gut flora is probably altered after consumption of many foods that our body is not accustomed to during the rest of the year. A little help with probiotics such as Live Probiotic Yogurt,  Kefir or Sauerkraut will restore good bacteria and improve our immune system.

Happy and Healthy New Year!