The Natura Blog

  • A Healthy Holiday Treat: Chocolate Brownies

    (Originally published December 28, 2012 at

    As I write this, our home is filled with the welcoming scent of home-baked cookies. Over the past few weeks, Jen and I (with plenty of help from our children) have been busy baking treats for the holidays, which we enjoy sharing with family, friends, and neighbors. I believe that treats can be a part of a healthy diet, if made with good quality ingredients and eaten in moderation.

    Dark chocolate, in particular, provides a sweet, sensual, and sin-free pleasure food as well as some significant health benefits. Chocolate is a good source of magnesium, a nutrient that many people don’t get enough of in their diets. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural compound that promotes mental alertness, clarity, and enhances the ability to concentrate and retain information (dark chocolate has even been shown in studies to reduce the onset of dementia). Many people feel happier and calmer after consuming a bit of chocolate, and there’s a scientific reason: Chocolate contains the amino acid tryptophan, which makes the neurotransmitter known as serotonin; together with the neurotransmitters dopamine, and the compounds phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide (known as the “bliss chemical”), these natural compounds exert beneficial effects on the brain and nervous system and help to prevent depression. Finally, research indicates that dark chocolate has positive effects on blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, apparently through reducing inflammation.

    To be beneficial, chocolate must be dark (milk or white chocolate doesn’t have the same healthful properties). The cacao bean from which chocolate is made is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals known as flavanols, however, the concentration of the flavanols in chocolate depends on how the cacao bean is processed. When choosing chocolate, buy dark, good quality chocolate (at least 70% cacao content or higher). For baking chocolate, choose unsweetened cocoa powder that has not been “Dutch processed” (a process that washes the beans with an alkali substance that destroys the beneficial flavanols).

    These brownies are made with rich dark unsweetened cocoa powder, which is an excellent source of healthful polyphenols (our favorite cocoa powder is Dagoba or Ghirardelli). They also contain coconut in several forms: coconut flour makes them appropriate for those who must avoid gluten, and coconut oil provides beneficial medium chain triglycerides, which have been shown to increase beneficial HDL cholesterol. Coconut oil is a good substitute for butter in any recipe. Sweetness is provided by coconut palm sugar, a natural sugar lower on the glycemic index that doesn’t wreak havoc with blood sugar levels. Finally, they’re loaded with shredded coconut, pecans, and dark chocolate chips. These brownies are a delicious, satisfying, and healthful holiday treat. Enjoy!

    Healthy Chocolate Brownies


    • 1/3 cup coconut oil (plus additional for pan)
    • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
    • ¼  teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • ½ teaspoon powdered cinnamon
    • ½ cup coconut flour
    • ½ cup roughly chopped pecans, lightly toasted
    • ½ cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)
    • ½ cup bittersweet dark chocolate chips


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8×8 baking pan with coconut oil.
    2. Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Set aside and let cool.
    3. In large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add cooled coconut oil-cocoa mixture and blend.
    4. Add coconut flour and cinnamon, blending until smooth.
    5. Stir in pecans, coconut, and chocolate chips.
    6. Spread batter into prepared pan, and bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until done. (Brownies are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.)

    Cool, and cut into 16 pieces.

  • Dandelion: Much More Than A Weed

    (Originally posted November 20, 2012 at

    By Donnie Yance

    My oldest coffee mug is decorated with a big picture of a dandelion and emblazoned with: “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em.”

    Many people consider the humble dandelion to be a pesky weed, and attempt to eradicate it from their lawns and gardens with toxic herbicides. But no matter how many poisonous chemicals are dumped onto dandelions, the bright yellow flowering plants not only survive, they thrive.

    The scientific name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, which translates as “the official remedy for disorders,” acknowledging the esteemed position that dandelion has held as a medicinal herb. For centuries, dandelion (both the leaf and root) has been used in traditional healing in cultures around the world.

    Dandelion greens are extremely nutritious, with an abundance of vitamins A, B complex, C and D; and minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Dandelion leaves are an extraordinarily rich source of beta-carotene—in fact, the fresh leaves contain more beta-carotene than carrots. In herbal medicine, dandelion has been used as an effective and safe diuretic. Because the plant is rich in potassium and other trace minerals, it doesn’t cause dangerous electrolyte imbalances, as can synthetic diuretics.

    The common name dandelion comes from the French dents de lion, meaning lion’s teeth—a reference to the toothed margins of the leaves. A number of plants are easily mistaken for dandelion, but there are two distinctive characteristics that set dandelion apart from look-alikes: the leaves of dandelion are smooth, without fuzz or spines; and each flower grows as a single stalk directly from the base of the plant (unlike many imposters, which sport one central or multi-flowered branching stalk).

    As an herbalist I use both the root and the leaf as medicine. Dandelion is a choleretic, diuretic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory; with potent redox-anti-oxidant activity, dandelion defends the liver against a wide variety of toxins. A recent research study proved that dandelion leaf extract effectively protects the liver against acetaminophen toxicity, which can cause acute liver failure and even death. [i]

    The mildly bitter flavor of dandelion stimulates liver and gallbladder function, making it a popular herbal remedy for improving digestion. I recommend dandelion as a digestive tonic, particularly to remedy liver stagnation and to enhance the digestion of fats. In addition, dandelion greens and root are both excellent for the kidneys. Because of their natural diuretic properties, they are useful for alleviating water retention and as a kidney-cleansing tonic. In general, I regard dandelion as a great tonic for overall health. I recently came across an interesting study that found dandelion improved energy levels and immune health in mice. [ii]

    As far as I’m concerned, the many health benefits of dandelion are icing on the cake. I enjoy the flavor of dandelion greens; in my Italian culinary heritage, we use fresh young dandelion greens in salads, and we cook mature dandelion leaves in the same way that you would cook spinach. I’d like to share one of my favorite dandelion greens recipe with you. This is a perfect fall dish.

    Italian-Style Sautéed Dandelion Leaves:

    • Wash and clean one bunch of dandelion leaves.
    • Slice into one-inch wide ribbons.
    • Heat in 1-2 Tbls. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add 1 tsp. of freshly crushed garlic, dandelion greens, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for 2-5 minutes, until greens are tender.
    • Add a splash of good quality balsamic vinegar and powdered seaweed to taste.
    • To vary the recipe, add 1-2 ozs. organic crushed tomatoes or 1 tsp. tomato paste while greens are sautéing.
    • Serve, and enjoy!

    [i] Colle DArantes LPGubert Pda Luz SCAthayde MLTeixeira Rocha JBSoares FA. Antioxidant properties of Taraxacum officinale leaf extract are involved in the protective effect against hepatoxicity induced by acetaminophen in mice, J Med Food. 2012 Jun;15(6):549-56. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

    [ii] Lee BRLee JHAn HJ. Effects of Taraxacum officinale on Fatigue and Immunological Parameters in Mice, Molecules. 2012 Nov 7;17(11):13253-65. doi: 10.3390/molecules171113253.

  • Did You Know... Anabolic Support for Graceful Aging

    Did you know that maintaining a healthy level of anabolic activity is critical to ensuring quality of life and longevity? Metabolism can be simply defined as the set of biochemical processes that occur in an organism to sustain life.  It can then be divided into two categories, processes that break down (catabolic) and processes that build up (anabolic).

    Anabolic Versus Catabolic
    Anabolic processes create complex materials from simpler substances. This activity would include synthesizing the basic components of cells like proteins and lipids, as well as creating the storage form of nutrients to be utilized as needed for energy. The steroidal hormones that stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth are traditionally classified by endocrinologists as anabolic hormones due to the nature of their effects on the body.

    Catabolic processes move in the opposite direction, breaking down large molecules into smaller ones, and tend to release energy in the form of energy- rich compounds like adenosine triphosphate (ATP). They not only supply the energy to power anabolic activity, they also provide the small molecules (building blocks) required to create more complex molecules, and the electrons which act like “glue” by holding atoms together through chemical bonds.

    A Healthy Balance
    In a cell where the anabolic processes dominate over the catabolic ones, growth will result. In a fully developed (non-growing) cell, a healthy balance will exist between the two states. This same concept applies to the entire organism. Take a human for example. As a child, youth naturally provides an anabolic dominant metabolism to support the growth requirements necessary for healthy development. This is the reason why children often bounce back quicker from illness and injury. Once fully mature, a balance between catabolic and anabolic activity is found to sustain the body. Maintaining this balance is crucial to ensuring quality of life and longevity, as it impacts every aspect of health.

    Aging –  The Shift Toward Catabolic Dominance
    As we age, the balance slowly shifts towards a more catabolic dominant metabolism, initiating the many physical and energetic changes we associate with later stages of life. The body becomes less efficient, losing the ability to keep pace with the rate of break down that is occurring. This shift results in decreased energy levels, physical deterioration, increased susceptibility to illness and injury, and longer recovery times. While this is a natural process that everyone experiences, the choices we make over the course of our lives can greatly improve our body’s ability to age gracefully. A healthy lifestyle that includes proper diet, regular exercise, and good rest is essential.

    Supporting Anabolic Restoration
    In conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, nutrients and botanicals that specifically promote anabolic activity can be highly effective tools for strengthening the body’s ability to regenerate and repair itself. Amino acid mineral chelates (creatine magnesium chelate), ecdysterone rich herbal extracts (Rhaponticum & Suma), and “super-food” concentrates (whey protein) have all been shown to support anabolic metabolism. Natura offers a variety of formulas that provide synergistic combinations of ingredients to encourage anabolic restoration and help maintain health and vitality for years to come. These include Botanabol,Power Adapt,Amino-Max,Night Gain &  Beyond Whey.

    For more information on ingredients and formula rationale for these products, please refer to our product sheets.

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