Vanilla is often well associated as a delightful flavour - but do you know that so much vanilla is not even real. Those food scientists are pretty clever at creating flavours that are much cheaper than the natural source and don’t have any of the natural source involved in the process.. scary and most people who I mention this to have no idea at all that vanilla ain’t always vanilla!!
Vanilla is a true medicinal food that has been used for centuries, and an everyday ‘superfood’ if you want to call it that. It’s especially powerful at enhancing brain and mood health. Real vanilla beans or real vanilla bean powder gives you access to some truly remarkable, nutritional secrets that this timeless food holds.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron on the spice market, due to the labor required to pollinate, cultivate, grow and extract. Despite the expense, vanilla is highly valued for its flavour, which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices as "pure, spicy, and delicate"; he called its complex floral aroma a "peculiar bouquet". As a result, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy.
Three major species of vanilla currently are grown globally, all of which derive from a species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern-day Mexico. The various subspecies are Vanilla planifolia (syn. V. fragrans), grown on Madagascar, Réunion, and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; V. tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific; and V. pompona, found in the West Indies, and Central and South America. The majority of the world's vanilla is the V. planifolia species, more commonly known as Bourbon vanilla (after the former name of Réunion, Île Bourbon) or Madagascar vanilla, which is produced in Madagascar and neighbouring islands in the southwestern Indian Ocean, and in Indonesia.
Vanilla is only grown with commercial success in a handful of nations based around 10 degrees either side of the equator and like fine wine, the region in which vanilla is grown results in a distinct aroma and flavour profile unique to the region. The subtle variations of vanilla’s aroma and flavour are affected by rain, soil conditions, the amount of sun as well as the methods used in harvesting, drying and curing of the vanilla beans.
Ground Vanilla Powder should not be confused with what the Americans commonly refer to as “vanilla powder” which is a creamy beige coloured powder that is a combination of sugar or dextrose, ground vanilla and vanilla extract.
Pure Ground Vanilla Powder is made by grinding the whole vanilla pod into a fine powder. This is then sifted to eliminate larger particles. This product is 100% natural, dark brown in colour with absolutely no additives and is gluten free.
The suppliers of our organically sourced vanilla invested a considerable amount of resource in sourcing only the finest organically grown natural vanilla products from the most exotic locations, from farmers and partners they know and trust. They continue to place a strong emphasis in supporting the local communities from whom they obtain this exceptional produce creating meaningful relationships and partnerships. It is, and has always been, their intention to create an experience where passion meets purpose. We in-turn are so very happy to support them.
In ancient Africa, healers used vanilla for stomach problems. The European doctors of the 16th and 17th centuries used it as an antidote for poisoning and stomach complaints, and as an aphrodisiac.
Vanilla oil has been documented to have antispasmodic, balsamic, calming, emmenagogue, antioxidant, antidepressant, and aphrodisiac properties,which enables it to assist in the following:
- Fight some types of cancers
- Regulate menstruation
- Relieve nausea
- Ease stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia
- Heal wounds
- Induce sleep and encourage dreaming
So lets take a look at some of the nutritional components:
1. Magnesium: The mineral we’re hearing a good bit about these days is found in most all plant-based foods,including vanilla beans. Magnesium is a vital mineral necessary for overall health because it regulates the nervous system and acts as a balancing mineral. It assists with both relaxation and energy production. Magnesium is also responsible for many enzyme reactions in the body that assist everything with digestion to assimilation of nutrients to the regulation of muscle and nervous system cells. For your brain and mood, it relaxes nervous tension, prevents or helps with mild depression and PMS, and optimises neurotransmitter function for optimal serotonin and dopamine production (our “feel good” hormones.) Magnesium is also necessary for healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Over farming of soils however is seeing a depletion of this important mineral in more commercial farming areas.
2. Potassium: All plant-based foods are also rich in potassium and vanilla beans are no exception. One tablespoon of vanilla bean powder has over 100 milligrams, equal to around the powder of one large bean. Potassium is another mineral needed for healthy blood pressure levels, and it assists with water regulation in the body, proper heart contractions, and helps balance the body’s electrolytes. For your mood, it can help relax blood vessels (which is why it’s great for blood pressure) which in turn reduces stress and tension.
3. Calcium: Though it’s known as a crucial mineral for bone health, it’s commonly overlooked for its benefits on the mood and mind. Calcium reduces cortisol in the body, the stress hormone that’s associated with anxiety, depression, moodiness, and even weight gain. Calcium is found abundantly in the plant-based kingdom, with vanilla beans (and many other common foods) being an overlooked source. While foods like greens, white beans, and chia seeds are higher in calcium than vanilla beans, just one tablespoon of vanilla bean powder will still provide you with an ample dose that helps relax the mind and lower stress.
4. Manganese: There’s a little bit more buzz surrounding this mineral than there used to be, and thank goodness for that! Manganese is essential to a healthy mood, metabolism, optimal nervous system function, and assimilation of other nutrients. It’s found in many nuts, seeds, and superfoods like cacao, vanilla, goji berries, and chia seeds. Vanilla bean powder actually has 30 percent of your daily manganese needs in just one tablespoon!
5. Aphrodisiac: And finally, let’s not forget the power of aphrodisiac foods on the brain. These foods aren’t just good for your libido, but also at enhancing hormones in the body that are associated with love and happiness, with oxytocin and dopamine being two of these. These make you feel happy, lighthearted, and in love with all things in life. Vanilla and chocolate have been used for hundreds of years for these two reasons alone, so why not take advantage of them and honor tradition!
This content provided above is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
So whats is Vanilla V's Vanillin?I’m sure most of you have bought vanilla extract at the store and not thought too much about it. Vanilla is vanilla, right? While many people might not think it matters, the differences in true vanilla and vanillin (or fake vanilla) may be of interest to you when you find out the facts.
Vanilla bean pods grow in areas such as Madagascar and Tahiti, just to name a couple of the most popular locations they’re produced. The beans are left to dry in the sun and cured, which is when their flavour develops. Vanilla beans are usually soaked with a liquid medium such as alcohol or glycerin (a food-based sweet liquid) for a certain number of weeks to produce vanilla extract. But I prefer to stay with the ground vanilla bean powder, so I know exactly what I am eating, sticking with a whole food because the bean powder is the internal scrapings of the beans themselves.
Vanillin, on the other hand, is what you’ll find in cheap extracts at the store that are also called “imitation vanilla”. Imitation vanilla may also be called “vanilla flavour”, and is often combined with sugar, corn syrup, or a similar low-quality sweetener to make the product taste better. It’s chemically produced to mimic the taste of vanilla but is not however, true vanilla. The compound vanillin is one of 171 compounds found in the vanilla pod and is primarily responsible for the smell and flavour of vanilla. Vanillin is found in many food ingredient lists, however the vanillin used in many products is usually the synthetic flavouring and not the actual vanilla or genuine extract from vanilla.
Then there’s the price and the flavour. Real vanilla is always worth a few extra dollars, and you’ll likely notice it on the price tag. If a vanilla product you’re buying is extremely cheap, most likely it’s not real vanilla. Real vanilla also has a deep, complex flavour, not an overly sweet taste. Real vanilla has an almost smokey flavour with a depth that cheap vanilla simply can’t replace.
For the best vanilla products, choose alcohol-free extracts that are organic and have no added sugar. When buying vanilla bean powder, ensure that the origin is stated on the label and the only ingredients are ground vanilla beans, not sugar and other flavourings.
NOTE - Vanillin (synthetic vanilla flavouring) is made and extracted in many ways. For instance it can be extracted from glycosides of pine tree sap and is also a byproduct of the pulp used in paper making in which lignin's are broken down using sulfites and sulfates.
Ok - so I left this gross bit till last... I learnt this from a friend a few years ago and will now always be sure that any product I buy has true vanilla just to be sure!!
Some vanilla flavouring comes from beavers! Yes the animal! Specifically, it can come from the beaver’s castor sacs, located between the pelvis and base of the tail. Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions and urine. (gross huh)!! Why?? It has a musky vanilla scent which is created by the animals’ diet of bark and leaves. Beaver’s use it to mark their territory, while humans use it to flavour their foods (really gross)!! It has been approved by the FDA as a food additive which means it may be seen on the ingredient list as a natural flavouring and is used in food and drinks as either a vanilla or raspberry flavouring – it is not natural.
The semi-good news? Only 292 pounds of the substance is collected per year. The bad news? Labelling of castoreum is not required, and it may simply be listed as “natural flavouring.” I keep harping on about this one.. Natural Flavouring always wonder what this means pleeeaaasseee! It can be made up of any number of ingredients - says nothing about the extraction process and only means that a natural food was used as some point in the process. Labelling does not require the specifics so always be cautious.
Yours in good health
Sources: One Green Planet and Dr Mercola