Vanilla was first cultivated by an indigenous Mexican tribe, the Totonacs, in the 15th century. The Totonacs were conquered by the Aztecs, who used vanilla along with cocoa in their famous "Xocolatl" drink.[To jump to the recipes, click here!]

The Aztec were in turn conquered by the Spanish, who first brought vanilla to Europe, where an apothecary of Queen Elizabeth 1 had the bright idea of using vanilla as a flavoring on its own.

Vanilla quickly caught on and remained a popular Mexican import, but could only spread beyond its native land after young slave Edmond Albius developed a method for hand-pollinating vanilla plants in the early 19th century.

Vanilla plants (or Vanilla planifolia) are actually a type of orchid that is exceedingly delicate and quite labor intensive to produce, and it can take as many as seven pounds of vanilla beans to produce one pound of processed vanilla. Thus, it's unsurprising that natural vanilla is second only to saffron in cost, with prices of up to $300 per pound!

However, because of this, nearly all "vanilla-flavored" products are not flavored with extract from the actual vanilla bean but with synthetic versions of vanillin, the compound that gives vanilla its dominant flavor.

This vanillin can be produced from such distasteful sources as petrochemicals, wood pulp, and even the anal secretions of beavers. Artificial versions of vanillin also won't have the same rich flavors or health benefits as the real stuff!

vanilla

The vanillin in true vanilla powder or extract is a potent antioxidant, which may be partially responsible for vanilla's anti-inflammatory properties and means that vanilla may be able to help prevent the degradation of stored foods.

Vanilla may also reduce spontaneous mutations, help prevent liver damage, and lower triglycerides. It's also shown potential as an anti-cancer agent and an anti-nociceptive (pain-killing) drug.

Vanilla is also antibacterial, with proven effects against Listeria Monocytogenes and E. coli as well as Staphylococcus aureus. Plus, it contains trace amounts of vitamins like niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin and minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron and copper.

If that weren't enough, vanilla is an amazing mood booster! The antidepressant activity vanilla produces in mice is comparable to that produced by the drug fluoxetine (Prozac). A study done on patients undergoing MRIs shows that the scent of vanilla may also reduce anxiety, and other research has found that people associated it almost exclusively with pleasant emotions.

Finally, vanilla made our recent list of sexy spices thanks to its sensual nickname of "nectar of the gods" and its documented effect on penile blood flow. Guess "vanilla" isn't so vanilla after all!

vanilla2

For the most concentrated and healthiest vanilla, you'll want to go with vanilla bean powder  as opposed to vanilla bean extract, which is more diluted and processed.

If you're up to more of a challenge, you could try making your own vanilla powder by scraping it out of raw vanilla beans. Then, test it out in the following recipes for Vanilla Pancakes and Vanilla Stewed Fruit!

You should also feel free to enjoy our version of Iced Chai Vanilla Tea, since vanilla teabags are usually flavored with the real thing. Or, you can get a taste of vanilla bean in our new vegan protein powder!

Vanilla Pancakes

vanilla pancakes

Breakfast just got better thanks to these vanilla pancakes! Estimated nutritional value of 257 calories, 5.7g fat. 210 mg cholesterol, 31.5 g carbohydrate, 5.4 g fiber, 18.8 g protein, and 1.6g sugar.

Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook time
10 minutes
Yield
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Vanilla bean powder to taste
  • 50gr lentil flour

Directions
Pancakes: Whisk egg white until thick add vanilla to taste. Add 50gr of lentil flour to egg whites, whisking until thick. If too thick, add a little bit of water or 1 tbsp milk (dairy allowance). Pour onto sandwich maker. Flip when cooked.

Sauce: Put egg yolk, lemon juice, vanilla or stevia over a pan of near boiling water until thick. Stir constantly. Pour over pancakes and add whipped cream or yogurt from allowance daily. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Recipe provided by

Iced Chai Vanilla Tea

chai vanilla tea

Estimated nutritional value of 30 calories, .2 fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7.7 carbohydrate, 3.6 fiber, 1g protein, and .2g sugar.

Prep Time
5 minutes
Cook time
5 minutes
Yield
1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 chai teabag
  • 1 vanilla teabag
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla yoghurt
  • 1-2 ice cubes
  • Ground cinnamon, to serve

Directions
1. Place teabag and boiling water in a heatproof jug. Stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes. Remove and discard teabag. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Blend yogurt, ice cubes and tea mixture together until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve.

Recipe provided by

Vanilla Stewed Fruit

vanilla stewed fruit

Spice up your breakfast with this vanilla treat! Estimated nutritional value of 142 calories, .4g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 37.2g carbohydrate, 7.6g fiber, .7g protein, and 26.4g sugar.

Prep Time
5 minutes
Cook time
10M
Yield
Makes about 3 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 apples
  • 1 packet of frozen strawberries
  • 1 sachet of stevia
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Pinch of vanilla powder

Directions
Cut apples up and put in pot with all ingredients except for half the packet of frozen strawberries. Let simmer until apples are soft. Once apples are soft, add the rest of the strawberries. If desired, sprinkle with crushed melba toast or grissini sticks.

Recipe provided by

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