Moringa gets a spa treatment in Belize

Moringa goddess

This week I have enjoyed playing on the beach in Belize with my friend, the Goddess of superfood, the inspiration for this blog series, the miracle tree … Behold her natural beauty, ladies and gentlemen … Moringa.

Moringa gave birth to twin baby coconuts and just one day later went out dancing all night…. Moringa is such a high-vibe, earthy goddess: She’s naturally high in nutrients and minerals, so she always has plenty of energy for everything that’s good in life.

Today, Moringa wanted to do something special just for herself, because… Well, because she’s superhuman…. So, she deserves something extra special.

Moringa oleifera is a fairly large tree that is originally native to North India, although today it is grown and harvested in tropical regions all over the world, including my home, sweet home, Belize! I recently planted Moringa in my own backyard, so in a year or so, I will be able to harvest my very own Moringa!

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This miracle plant goes by a variety of names, such as drumstick tree, horseradish tree, or ben oil tree. Almost all parts of the Moringa oleifera tree are edible. Moringa leaves are rich in many important nutrients, including protein, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin and iron.

Being a U.S.-Certified/Licensed Massage Therapist, I had the privilege of offering my friend Moringa a luxurious spa treatment. I provided her with a full body wrap and facial proudly handmade with all-natural, locally sourced, cacao powder and honey — sustainably harvested by my friends Abelina and Juan on their very own cacao tree farm in southern Belize!

Here is what Moringa looked like with her organic cacao powder body wrap treatment:

1 bowl of moringa cacao

Ingredients:

  1. a handful of fresh moringa leaves
  2. organic cacao powder
  3. organic honey
  4. coconut oil

That’s it… Yes, really. That’s it. (Life really can be this simple.)

It’s worth noting, dear reader (Hey, thanks for reading!) that cacao is qualitatively different from cocoa:

Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans.

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The process keeps the living enzymes and removes the fat (cacao butter). Here is a bag of organic cacao powder from my favorite Belizean suppliers, Ixcacao in San Felipe village, southern Belize. (Thank you, Abelina and Juan, for satisfying my superfood addiction with your awesome, organic cacao powder!)

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Cocoa powder looks the same as cacao powder, but it’s not made of the same stuff. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures, thereby denaturing the living enzymes (Ewww, you mean it’s not a raw superfood?! Hmphh.)

I consumed the entire bowlful of this sinfully delicious raw super food with sheer abandon:

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… I licked the bowl clean (oooh, mmmm!)….

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… Finally, I licked my fingers….

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In case you’re wondering why I would be so amenable to voracious consumption of cacao powder, click here to learn the benefits of eating raw cacao. Basically, it’s good for you, especially when Moringa is playing along!

After eating Moringa and her cacao honey body wrap, I got an idea:

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I’ll treat myself to a full body wrap!

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Great idea! So… I gathered my materials (cacao powder, honey, and coconut oil) and mixed them together (It’s easy: You can do it yourself at home!)

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Trust me, I’ve done this before, folks…. Here are two of my clients blissfully relaxed during a luxurious cacao powder facial treatment at our Spa and Wellness Center at Cotton Tree Lodge, a jungle lodge and adventure getaway in southern Belize:

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When applied topically, cacao offers amazing skin benefits. Enriched with minerals and vitamins like Vitamin C, magnesium and omega 6 fatty acids; cacao promotes blood flow, provides hydration to the skin, and increases cellular healing to result in younger looking skin and a youthful glow (Come on, every girl out there wants all this):

  • Cacao is high in antioxidants. It blocks harmful free radicals in the body. It also protects the body against premature diseases and premature aging;
  • Cacao has good amount of vitamin C and magnesium, which helps in protecting the skin and keeping it healthy;
  • Cacao contains omega 6 fatty acids, which helps in cellular healing. It also heals wounds and scars quickly;
  • Cacao has a raw enzyme which helps in repairing the cell and its rejuvenation; and
  • With super absorbent properties, cacao protects the skin from harmful UV rays and acts as a natural sunscreen.

My client, glowing and radiant after her spa treatment, said this about her cacao honey facial:

“With traveling [from Michigan] and the change in climate [to tropical Belize], my face broke out all over my cheeks and felt very irritating. Parama gave me a cleansing facial that was made of organic cacao, honey, coconut oil, and copal essential oils. She gently massaged my face, applied the all-natural face mask, and then gave me a full-body Swedish massage while the face mask nourished and soothed my skin. After the session, my face felt so much better: It glowed and felt soft and smooth. My skin was completely cleared up by the next day.”

Well, there you have it, my Belize-bound, beach-going beauties!

If you feel so inspired, here are some videos to help you get started with your own edible cacao honey facial … (But … be forewarned: You will smell like chocolate cake, so if you have a dog or a boyfriend or a husband, they will want to eat you!)… Enjoy!

Moringa marries a banana in Belize

beach blissMy friends and family know I’ve always been a finicky eater. My mom told me that when I was little, I annoyed her because I used to play with my food… a lot.

What’s wrong with playing with your food?

Isn’t food meant to be fun?

Well, nothing’s changed. I still play with my food… a lot. I like to experiment. I like to invent my own meals. It still annoys people. (“What are you making?”)

I’ve been house sitting at my friends’ beachside bungalow in Belize, a tiny country just south of Mexico with white sand beaches, tropical jungles, waterfalls, caves, monkeys, … and … more beaches. I normally prefer to howl with the monkeys in the jungle while painting my face with streaks of mud, but for the next few months it looks like I’m beach-bound, here beside the Caribbean Sea. (I know, I’m so bummed out, right?)

So, this morning, a little bird flew into the window of my bungalow with a tweet (a message, folks) and told me to write about what I’m having for breakfast.

First, I had to finish my daily morning yoga routine.

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Get your bliss on, baby.

Then, I made my way into the kitchen to inspect the cupboards and see what I could whip up. I found ….

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Well, … I’ve tried over a hundred times to eat all these tantalizing, commercialized cakes, pies, and doughnuts from the grocery store, but my body rebels, no matter how much I want it to cooperate with my taste buds’ flights of fancy. One bite of anything that contains wheat will send my digestive system into disarray. It gets ugly.

I engorged myself on wheat products my entire childhood, growing up in an Italian family where my Nonna and Papi (Italian grandparents) always made delicious home cooked meals (Grazie!) with plenty of pasta, fresh-baked bread, cookies, and more … pasta. (“Don’t you want more pasta? … Here, have some more!”) So, like most Americans, I acquiesced to the family’s mealtime traditions… until I discovered in my adult years that I was, like most Americans, allergic to gluten.

Yes, that most dastardly, nefarious ingredient. Gluten – it’s in all wheat products. It’s evil, I tell you, … evil.

I’ve joined the growing ranks of the health-conscious “gluten free” army, and we’re rising up, folks … Look out, we’re adamant and unyielding, and we’re proud of it.

So, … Lucky Charms? Not for breakfast. Maybe in my dreams. Well, maybe … in another life … if, say, i’m really super stressed out and don’t have any time to make anything because that person keeps instant messaging and i have to answer and i just want to numb out because of that stupid thing that stupid person said and i just can’t relax so i’m going to sit and have some cereal…..

I eat to live; I don’t live to eat. (Well, … okay, the one exception would be chocolate: If there’s chocolate anywhere near me, I have to eat it. It’s an obsession.) I exercise my body every day, so I exercise my right to healthy, conscious (shall we say, intuitive?) eating.

I found a ripe banana.

The gates of heaven opened up, beams of radiant, white light poured out into the room, and I was renewed in the spirit! (Well, sort of) .… My point is, I did not succumb to the temptation of filling my gut with things that would make me feel yucky for the rest of the day. I waited until I had found something nourishing — something that I could have picked off a tree with my own hands, which I can actually do down here in tropical Belize.

Banana trees grow everywhere in Belize! I even have one in my own backyard, and I can eat from it year-round. (Now that’s what you call “food security”….)

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With a banana in hand, I was ready to start inventing! Let the experiment begin!

I wondered, What other fresh, healthy foods could be happily married to a banana? Then, I thought about all the moringa leaves drying on that tray downstairs in my bungalow.

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These are the actual seeds I extracted from the pod (heart-shaped seeds, awww!) and the twigs that came from a moringa tree in our neighbor’s front yard here in Belize.

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Then, I heard the banana crying out for a companion to join him in a blissful bowl of raw food deliciousness. Poor, lonely fella. So I hurried downstairs to retrieve some moringa for him.

Yes, our neighbor “Junior” – quite a dude. A tall, strapping, native Belizean dude. Years ago he planted some moringa seeds in the dirt with his own hands and left it to grow into a tall tree, which he can shimmy up for anyone who asks him to get some fresh moringa. (Isn’t that great? It’s local; it’s organic!)

Moringa, known as the Miracle Plant, has become quite a fad in America’s health food movement. If you live in the US, you won’t be lucky enough to find it in your backyard, like me (hee, hee). You mostly find it in health food stores, all violently ground up into a powder and sold as capsules, but I prefer the real thing, because I can get the real thing!

Moringa trees are tropical, so I can grow them in my very own backyard (lucky me!)…. All I needed was to ask Junior to give me some of the seeds from his tree!

You can either plant the moringa seed (well, if you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics, like me – hee, hee) or you can eat one or two seeds fresh out of the pod. But be forewarned – the seeds are bitter, and they have a powerful detoxifying effect, which I had the privilege to experience first-hand.

I typically like to fast from food once a week. Recently, I decided to fast all day and then pop two fresh moringa seeds. Within a few hours I was … well, in the cathartic throes of detox. All the toxins came out, and I’ll just leave it at that. Spare ya the details.

The take-home for you, dear reader (Hey, thanks for reading!) is that after my detoxification, I felt like a superhero, because moringa, after all, is considered a super food and will go down in the foodie halls of fame as one of the most powerful, health-enhancing plants.

moringa-oleifera-powder2Native to India, the moringa tree has been planted in other tropical countries all over the world, including my home sweet home, Belize! While many things found in nature can have one or two health benefits, moringa has many. India’s ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine cites over 300 diseases that can be treated with the leaves of the moringa tree. Recent scientific research has proven that moringa is a powerhouse of nutritional value (You might even start feeling like the goddess in this picture if you eat lots of moringa).

Moringa leaf is an excellent source of nutrition and a natural energy booster. Moringa is also soothing, as it helps lower blood pressure and acts as a sleep aid. Moringa’s detoxifying effect may come from its ability to purify water: Moringa is a coagulant, attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria.

The other day, I was biting the fresh moringa leaves straight off a twig that Junior had plucked from his moringa tree. My friend noticed me and asked, bewildered, “Why are you eating sticks?”

I whinnied in reply.

Back to my lonely banana. He’s such a demanding chap. I have left him waiting for waaaay too long (sorry, dear, but first I had to come to Belize to find you).

Now that I had my moringa super food, all I had to do was add the filler ingredients – the glue to hold it all together. A newly married couple needs to celebrate with entertainment and gaiety! Let’s party!

I brought down the organic oat flour and steel-cut oats. I broke out the fresh, locally sourced, organic coconut oil, and I popped open the bottle of honey (in my mouth – oooh, baby!) … and….

Hmmmm. 

Still missing something….

gato

A cat? (awww) …

A bird! A plane! …

No, …. Sea salt, of course! We’re at the beach, remember? The waves of the Caribbean Sea are crashing (hear them?) outside the kitchen window to shore, and the salty sea winds are blowing my hair all over my face. [I wrap my long, unruly hair under a green shawl – green to match the moringa.]

And, let’s face it, after waiting this long: No marriage can go unconsummated. Let’s be sure to add a dash of spice to our after party with a few generous sprinkles of … cinnamon!

First, I invited everyone at the wedding party to get to know each other with some ice breakers (the banana had previously been frozen, unable to express himself fully, reluctant to warm up), but after those icebreakers and some casual fun and games, everyone was really having fun! I introduced the ravishing bride and her groom (the moringa goddess and her banana), and they danced together beautifully. Then, everyone wanted to get in on the dance.

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Drumbeat, please…. [Live drummers enliven the place with native rhythms].

By then, it was time to get real close together and start sweating (oooh, that can be so messy and embarrassing, but in the end it’s always worth it, to let loose)…. So, I used a fork to mash all the ingredients together.

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Here is what all these naughty ingredients looked like when I had everyone partying together and relishing in newlywed merriment:

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Rather have the Lucky Charms? (Believe me, I understand). Health food is … well, let’s say, an acquired taste. (You can add cacao powder, which I would have done in a heartbeat, but I was all out because I ravenously consume all cacao products in my midst).

Notice the white sand beach in the background (We just had to have the wedding in Belize; I mean, where else can a lonely banana find his moringa goddess? And this goddess, my dear readers, having suffered for so long, loved and respected the banana, and she had earned her white dress.)

I went for it, folks…. Banana moringa bliss on the beach.

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And how did I feel after tasting the first bite of naturally wedded, tropical splendor?

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Hmmmm, maybe I should let my hair down for this one….

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Divine….

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Like a goddess

Emerging from the sea

Holding a trident

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Early in the morning, when the sea is calm, I like to swim in the Caribbean. Yesterday I came out holding this three-pronged stick—a trident. 

My spiritual teacher Geshe Michael said, “Always try your best to treat everyone kindly. No exceptions. It could be the most annoying person you’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has something to teach you. You never know when you’re talking to an angel.”

(Look, mom, I’m an angel! Sorry I annoyed you by always playing with my food.)

And finally, some inspiration for you to play, too!