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Staying in the 'Loupe

Travelling can teach us so much about the rest of the world and inspire our way of living back home. While taking holiday on the French island of Guadeloupe, I was recharged by the joie de vivre in the air and the elements of life that keep us feeling alive: simple living, eating local, and communing with nature.

As a chef I can't help but seek out the freshest ingredients when I travel. Part of the adventure is learning about (and devouring) the staples of the local diet. Read on for some of my favorite ingredients I found on the island and what gives them my stamp of approval in a healthy diet. I've included some simple recipes that will give you a taste of Guadaloupe.

I was surprised to learn that turmeric, or curcuma (in French) is grown and used as profusely on the island as basil is in Italy. Turmeric is one the most widely mentioned and studied medicinal herbs, mainly for it's healing compound curcumin. Known for being one of the most beneficial anti inflammatory spices, it's health benefits reach much further, from anti-depressant to pain killer. In fact, turmeric has been found to be equally or more effective than medications for arthritis, cancer, diabetes, depression, cholesterol and GI disorders.

A trip to the Museum of Chocolate could not be missed. Let's just say I nearly needed another suitcase for my pure chocolate and cocoa butter souvenirs. We tried every form of the cacao plant, from the raw bean, to it's more ubiquitous form as dark chocolate, and even liquid hot chocolate (see recipe below) which I tend to be a bit of a snob about and it was divine. While the cacao nibs (the edible part of the bean) is exalted for its extremely high antioxidant effect, the health benefits of dark chocolate should not go unrecognized. Good quality dark chocolate can lift our moods by raising serotonin levels. It stimulates neurotransmitters which can produce a feeling of calm and contentment. Look for fair trade, dark chocolate (70-100%). The higher the percentage your chocolate, the less sugar it contains.

Cousin of the banana, high in potassium, and excellent for brain health, plantains are a staple in nearly every dish in Guadeloupe. I enjoyed them smashed, boiled, fried, and braised in curries. While they look just like bananas, plantains are almost always cooked before eating and are packed with nutrients like Vitamins A, C, and B6, magnesium, potassium, and soluble fiber, making them an excellent starchy fruit to substitute in for rice and potatoes. I hope 2017 is the year of the plantain. For a healthier take on double fried plantains, try the following recipe

While it's not a signature Guadeloupean meal

the, French host of my lodge introduced me to a new kind of breakfast: Miam O' Fruit. This was created by France Guillian, a student of Applied Sciences. This specially crafted fruit bowl is packed with healthy fats, plant-based protein, and slow burning carbohydrates that will keep you full until the afternoon. It's also a beautiful bowl that makes you salivate upon first glance.

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