Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Popsicles that Pack a (Protein) Punch

I am too horrified by what I might find to add up the total grams of sugar my 2-year-old consumes on a given summer day.  Between the megabowls of fruit and the constant pleading for popsicles, I wouldn't be surprised if the number would be rather much higher than I'd like.  But as much as I am a health-nut in many ways, I am also into making my family happy.  And nothing makes my family happy like a big bowl of a watermelon and a fresh batch of "mommy-popsicles," as they call them.  ("Daddy popsicles" are the store-bought kind... which as awesome as my popsicles are, they do still ask for... ah well, everything has it's place.)

Anyhow, I have my secrets - as all good moms do - and I find a way to get nutrition in where they're least likely to detect it.  Like in baked goods, smoothies, sauces, and of course, popsicles.  The secret weapon I have come to LOVE LOVE LOVE is called VitaShake and it's made by Sunrider.  (more on this later)  It's an herbal food (whatever that means) and has an ingredients list that really impresses me.  Prior to this time, I have left it at that - impressed - and also confused and baffled at what all those roots, seeds, and herbs could be.  Today I decided to research a few in order to share with you just exactly why I suggest this powder as a healthy and worthwhile additive to my family's diet. 

Starting at the top, the first ingredient is Coix Lacryma-Jobi.  Say what?  Here's a summary of what I read on this plant.  It's an herb that drains dampness, basically, and is said to be beneficial to the digestive system as well as the spleen and the lungs.  It is native to the East Indies but is also found in Hawaii and other places.  It clears damp heat (in chinese medicine, dampness and damp heat is not good and is associated with excess phlegm, abdominal bloating, lack of thirst or appetite, and stiffness/achiness, and low-energy, more on chinese medicine terms ) and if you want to read more about this herb in particular, an exhaustive source is found here: Coix-Lacryma-Jobi.

Ok, so what else is in this little packet?  Soy protein.  Well there's a can of worms I've been waiting to open.  I'm happy to finally sit here and do the reseach because in the last year or two the "Soy Alert" that has been circulating got even me, an avid tofu-lover, questioning whether soy is healthy or dangerous.  I found this to be the best synopsis of the topic, and I must say, I'm happy to hear it:

Do soybeans cause cancer?
It is true that "overcooked" soy does contain "carcinogenic" compounds. When soy is extruded through high temperature, high-pressure steam nozzles to form what is called "textured vegetable protein - TVP for short", this form of processing renders the soy "meat substitute" carcinogenic or cancer causing. TVP is what is used in soy dogs and soy burgers, and should be avoided.

What about roasted soybeans?
Whole soybeans are high in plant fat. If soybeans are roasted to eat as soy nuts, the heat alters the fat and makes it a trans-fatty acid, which causes both cancer and heart disease. As roasted soy nuts sit on the shelf or in the cupboard in storage, the oils are becoming more and more rancid and carcinogenic. AVOID roasted soybeans.

I have breast cancer, and I've been told I cannot have soy!
It is true that soy is a "phyto-estrogen" food, which means it contains substances that have hormone-like components. However, their estrogen strength is 1/1000th that of the body's own stronger estrogens. Therefore, you want to load your digestive system with quality controlled raw soy powder, because these weaker estrogens will block the estrogen receptor sites from receiving your body's own stronger estrogens and therefore be very protective against estrogen fed cancer.
Source:  Dr. Richard Brouse at

To wrap up on the Soy good vs. evil topic, the rest of my research concludes all soy is definitely not created equal.  Only organic, non-GMO soy is acceptable at the very least.  Also how it is processed and prepared is very important in maintaining it's healthful properties, but this is hard to determine from most supermarket packaging.  This is why you should buy any soy protein powder from a reputable health food store and check with their staff for a recommendation on a brand.  This is why I choose Sunrider because I have read all about their food-processing practices and trust in their product.  Shaklee is another good one.

Still wrapping up on Soy, a synopsis of the benefits is as follows:  It's main benefit is in lowering total cholesterol and bad-cholesterol (LDLs) and prevents narrowing of the arteries.... so much so that the U.S. FDA has even approved a statement about their effectiveness in reducing the risk of heart disease, when combined with a diet low in saturated fats. (1999)  Soy protein may also prevent breast and prostate cancer, increase immunity, and anti-oxidize against trans fats.  Ok, that about settles it for me.  Soy processed and pumped into mainstream foods as filler and substitues:  BAD.  Soy in the form of organic, sprouted or raw tofu is good, edamame is still good (phew), and soy protein powders from a reputable source are a great nutritional supplement to add to your family's diet.  (Anyone have anything to say on this topic?  Please do weigh in.)

In the interest of brevity, and getting to the pictures of those mouth-watering popsicles... here's the rest of the fascinating ingredients in my VitaShake powder.  Chinese Yam, Fox Nut Seed, Lotus Seed, Lotus Root, Calcium Carbonate, Chromium, Selenium, magnesium, various vitamins including Bs, D, and K, minerals, and trace minerals.  One whole packet has 95 calories, 3g of fiber and only 5g of sugar.  Enjoy!

Makes 4 popsicles and 1 smoothie for immediate gratification:
  • 1 packet VitaShake (in Strawberry)
  • 1 cup fresh organic bing cherries, pitted with love
  • 3/4 pint leftover organic black cherry gelato, melted slightly
  • A scoop of Nancy's whole milk plain yogurt, for zip
  • Coconut water, as needed to liquify

Little ones are sure to enjoy.  And you can feel good about knowing that the sweet treat they're enjoying is well worth the sugar splurge.  A good thing for us, because we do so love to splurge.

Learning lesson...  Don't pit the cherries directly OVER the bowl of the blender.  Eventually you're bound to accidentally throw pits into the blender... and not find them.

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