Today’s Health Morsel: Fenugreek

Fenugreek is related to clover. The leaves, called methi in Hindi, can be eaten, but I’ve never seen them for sale in any place that I’ve lived. I’m familiar with the seeds, which are used as a spice. They are also sold as a supplement, but are effective at edible quantities, and taste so good that I have a hard time seeing the point of the pill version. I prefer to buy the seeds whole, but where I live now I can only find them pre-ground, so that’s what I’m currently using. I’ll get into all that after breakfast & lunch…


breakfast_text

I was ready for a change in the mornings, so I’ve switched up my routine breakfast a bit, but I still get in my flaxseeds and some fresh fruit.

  • 1 1/2 c muesli with 25% dried fruit (that’s 1 1/8 c whole grains + 1/3 c dried fruit)
  • 1 T ground flaxseed mixed into the muesli
  • 2 apricots (fresh)

Checklist items: 2 other fruits, flaxseeds, 1+ whole grains (4+ out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

Here’s what’s awesome about chopped salads: you can cram a lot of high-nutrient-density food into a small space if you chop it up real good.

  • 3/4 c corn
  • 1/4 c buckwheat, toasted
  • 1/4 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c carrot
  • 1/4 c onion & garlic
  • 1/2 c broccoli
  • 1 c arugula
  • 1 c lettuce

I chopped up the greens and vegetables before adding the corn, seeds, and buckwheat. Then I mixed it together with a little bit of tamari, lime juice, sriracha, and seaweed flakes.

Checklist items: cruciferous, 2 greens, 1 other vegetables, nuts, 2 whole grains (6 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

 20170816_145209.jpgI wish you could smell this picture, but you can’t, so you’ll just have to go buy some fenugreek. It’s like a blend of curry and maple syrup.

Fenugreek is most noted for its potent anti-cancer properties, and for its ability to help nursing women lactate (though not recommended for pregnant women because of uterine side-effects). What most people don’t know, though, is that the seeds are also antimicrobial and anti-parasitic.

Based on studies done with rats, which may be translatable to humans, fenugreek fights kidney stones by reducing calcium oxalates in the kidneys. It also helps to combat heartburn and acid reflux, and to reduce cholesterol by binding to it and ushering it out of the system.

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, using fenugreek significantly impacted body strength and composition compared to the placebo in men working on resistance training (a.k.a. weight lifting).

Fenugreek is also a good source of protein & fiber, and is rich in iron, copper, potassium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, & phosphorus.  Did you know it’s important to consume copper, iron, & zinc in roughly the right ratios? I was curious when I learned about this, so I entered a bunch of random fruits & veg into cronometer – everything I happened to enter respects the general bounds of this ratio. So, it’s really only a worry if you’re supplementing. For example, too much iron can prevent the body from absorbing zinc and copper. Supplementing with zinc also prevents copper absorption. The ideal ratio of copper : iron : zinc is 1 mg : 18 mg : 12 mg for women (men need less iron at 8 mg, but more zinc at 15 mg). Fenugreek, like most whole plant foods, is also in the ball-park, with 1.1 mg : 33 mg : 2.5 mg. It could have a little more zinc, but it’s not way out of whack.

Last but not least, just like its relative, clover, fenugreek fixes nitrogen in the soil, so it can be used in crop rotation to restore nitrogen to depleted soil in a more sustainable way than manure or chemical fertilizers. A great reason to increase demand for it in the marketplace! Aaand, now that I’ve brought up manure, let’s talk recipes. Sorry.

This is a healthy, fast & simple way to enjoy fenugreek. It also happens to be one of my favorite things to make with all the beets I’ve been taking out of my garden.

This recipe is for 2 people; the checklist below is for half the recipe:

  • 1 1/4 c dry red lentils (≈ 3 c cooked)
  • 1 c onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 c bouillon, homemade if possible
  • lime juice
  • 1 tsp fenugreek, ground or whole pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander, ground
  • s&p, to taste
  • 3 c of beets, pre-cooked
  1. Sauté onion & garlic with fenugreek, coriander, s & p. Deglaze with a little bit of lime juice & bouillon.
  2. Add lentils and bouillon, cook covered for about 15 – 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  3. Add the beets and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes more.
  4. At the end of cooking, add lime juice, to taste, about 2 T. This really brings the flavors together! Don’t skip it!

Checklist items: 3 beans, 4 other vegetables, 2 spices (9 out of 18 servings)

By the way – this recipe contains an insane 40 g of protein per serving. At my weight, that’s my day’s worth in one meal! So, never let anyone tell you vegans can’t get enough protein. It also contains 44 g fiber per serving, which you won’t find in any animal products.


dessert_text

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 cup berries, frozen

Make yourself a small bowl of banana ice dream like this.

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruit (2 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

21 servings in total.

We got at least the recommended servings of everything today, plus extra spices, and 2 extra servings of other vegetables.

Advertisements

Today’s Health Morsel: Lentils

Not a fan of lentils? That’s okay! Today’s lentil recipe is even a hit with non-lentil-lovers. The humble lentil is so inexpensive, yet filling and highly nutritious. I’ll get into that later, but first …

breakfast_text

I made a big fruit salad yesterday, containing 1 pineapple, 2 passion fruit, 3 plums, 1 particularly large mango, & 2 kiwi. I’ll have some of that for breakfast!

  • 2 c. fruit salad sprinkled with 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c. dates
  • 1/2 c. blueberries

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruit, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

I’ll be getting all my bean & grain servings at dinner, but not much in the way of veg, so I’m having a very vegetable-heavy lunch (a.k.a., a salad).

  • 2 c. lettuce and arugula, chopped
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c. red onion
  • 1/4 c. cucumber
  • 1/4 c. corn kernels
  • 1/4 c. walnuts

I had my salad with My Basic Dressing.

Checklist items: 2 greens, 2 other vegetables, nuts (5 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

wp-image-575592051jpg.jpeg

 

Ah. The lowly lentil. A quick read into the history of lentils leaves one with the impression that mankind may not have evolved like we did if not for the lentil. This was one of the first plants ever to be cultivated, and lentils have been eaten by our kind since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found 8000 year-old lentil seeds at dig sites in the Middle East, and evidence suggests we may have been eating them as much as 13,000 years ago. And that just goes to show that, even though our species can be pretty stupid at times, we do have some brains. Lentils are among the best foods that you could possibly put into your body. And here’s why…

Among legumes, only black beans top lentils in terms of antioxidant power. For protein, iron, zinc, & folate, red lentils come in first, followed closely by puy & green lentils. This data, however, does not include information on beluga lentils which, like black beans, have a black skin jam-packed with anthocyanin. I would be interested to see whether they might even beat out black beans for antioxidant power. The reason I think they might is based on simple geometry: all else being roughly equal, the smaller object should have a larger surface-area-to-volume ratio. Thus, the lentil should have more skin as a percentage of its total than the black bean. Since the antioxidants are in the skin, the beluga lentil may actually have higher antioxidant power. I’m sure we’ll find out someday. (UPDATE: In a Live Q&A on July 28, 2017, Dr. Greger postulates similarly – that Beluga lentils are likely the healthiest of the lentils because of their small size, though I think it’s likely not only a function of surface-to-volume ratio but also because smaller often means higher concentration of nutrients. I’m guessing – his words were “smaller is better”.)

Lentils have a higher fiber content than almost anything else. For a fiber chart and all the information you (n)ever wanted to know about fiber, visit this page. Here’s a couple of highlights: first, all that soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol by trapping cholesterol-containing bile & “ushering” it out of your system. Second, fiber also helps to regulate & stabilize blood sugar levels.

Another good reason to eat lentils is their iron content. Richer in iron than anything but soybeans, lentils can help maintain healthy metabolism, produce energy, & maintain hemoglobin. Foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., broccoli, bell peppers, & brussels sprouts) help to increase plant-based iron absorption if eaten at the same meal (learn more about different types of iron here). But avoid coffee & tea, as they impair iron absorption. According to the Iron Disorders Institute, this is due, at least in part, to polyphenols & tannins rather than caffeine. For more info about iron & a list of foods highest in iron, visit this page.

If you have high homocysteine levels in your blood from a history of consuming animal products, the folate in lentils (along with vitamin B6, of which lentils are also a good source, and vitamin B12) will help to lower those levels, reducing both damage to your arteries, and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, a daily dose of lentils (or peas or beans) is important for prostate health.

All that research has made me hungry: now, for dinner!

This will serve 2 – 3 people, depending on appetite. For the checklist items at the end, I assume you bring your appetite. What am I making? Misr Wat. It’s an Ethiopian dish of lentils with Berbere spice blend, to which I add kale. It is traditionally served with injera – similar to a crêpe – but I’m serving it over black rice. If you can get your hands on some  real injera made with teff, a whole grain, that would also be a good option. This dish is great for rainy or cold days, as it is hearty and satisfying. 

  • 3 c. cooked black rice (a/b 1 c. dry)
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • 1 c. finely chopped kale
  • 3 c. (900 ml) vegetable bouillon or water
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 1 1/2 T Berbere spice mix
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  1. Sauté the onions, garlic, & ginger in water or bouillon, like this.
  2. Stir in tomato paste & Berbere spice mix, and continue cooking for about 1 minute as you combine everything.
  3. Slowly add bouillon, whisking until the mixture is smooth, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add lentils & kale, and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  5. Turn off the burner, and stir in lime juice.
  6. Serve over black rice and sprinkle with cilantro.

Checklist items: 3 beans, cruciferous, .5 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (8.5 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18.5 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus half an extra serving of other vegetables.

Cornmeal, Nasturtium & Beluga Lentils

Breakfast_textCorn is a wonderful ingredient! There are so many different ways to eat it – from corn tortillas to popcorn, and it plays a double-role in your Daily Dozen, since it can be counted under either whole grains or other vegetables. I haven’t had cornmeal mush since I was a kid, and I suddenly had a craving for it, so that’s what I’m having for breakfast (minus the butter, of course).

  • cornmeal_20160627_1354541/4 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. hazelnut milk (+ 1/4 c. water if you like a wetter mush)
  • 1/2 c. blueberries
  • 1 T maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 nectarine (or fruit of choice)

To make cornmeal mush:

  1. Add the liquid and the cornmeal to a small pot, and simmer on a low-med heat for ~7 minutes
  2. Add blueberries & heat through
  3. Stir in maple syrup, if using

The additional fruit can either be cut up and added to the mush or, as I did, simply eaten on the side. I was thinking some chopped dates might be a very tasty addition to the mush! Perhaps I’ll do that instead of the nectarine next time.

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruits, 1 whole grains (3 out of 18 servings)


snack_textIt’s early, but breakfast was pretty small this morning, so I’m having a light mid-morning snack.

 

  • 1 c. melon pieceswp-1467101903567.jpg

I found an interesting melon at the grocery store. There are so many types I’ve never tried. This one is a Santa Claus Melon, and it’s excellent…a perfect, light snack.

Checklist items: 1 other fruits (1 out of 18 servings)


lunch_textI’m in the mood for rice and lentils. I plan to switch soon to non-white varieties of rice (here‘s why), but for the moment, I only have Basmati, heretofore my favorite. I’ve never had black or purple rice, and I can’t wait to try! But, for now, the lentils are the stars of the show. I’m using a mix of red & beluga lentils today.

  • wp-1467108359811.jpg1/2 c. lentils, pre-cooked
  • 1/2 c. rice, pre-cooked
  • 1/2 c. beet greens, pre-cooked
  • 1/4 c. celery
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 T flaxseed, ground
  • 1/4 c. arugula
  • 2 corn tortillas

I often have some cooked rice and either beans, peas, or lentils in the fridge. This makes it super easy to throw together a nutritious meal! Also, I grow beets in my garden and, when I harvest them, I cook the greens in boiling water for 1 minute, then freeze them, so I’ve got greens from my own garden throughout the year. Here’s how I put lunch together:

  1. Saute celery & bell pepper with garam masala, tomato paste, and water
  2. Add beet greens, rice & lentils and cook just until warm
  3. Turn off heat, and add lime juice.
  4. Put 1 c. of mixture on each corn tortilla
  5. Sprinkle flaxseed on top, along with arugula
  6. Wrap & eat!

Checklist items: 1 beans, 1/2 cruciferous, 1 greens, 1 other vegetables, flaxseed, spices, 3 whole grains (8 1/2 out of 18 servings)


dinner_textI love salad. Especially this time of year, when we’ve got lettuce, arugula, radishes, beets, peas & various herbs coming out our ears. Well, technically, out of our garden. I’m always excited for when the nasturtiums start to bloom. They add both color and spice to salads. The flowers are edible, and the leaves have a robust peppery flavor.

  • wp-1467118137655.jpg1 c. peas
  • 1/4 c. broccoli
  • 1 c. red leaf lettuce & nasturtium leaves, mixed
  • 1/4 c. cucumber
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c. red radish sprouts
  • 1/4 c. corn
  • 1/4 c. dry-roasted sunflower seeds
  • Chef AJ’s House Dressing
  • Nasturtium flowers

The only instruction worth adding here is to put the flowers on the salad after the salad has been served. Even if you’re just making it for yourself, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to enjoy the fact that you have a gorgeous bowl of food in front of you.

Checklist items: 2 beans, 1/2 cruciferous, 1 greens, 2 other vegetables, nuts (6 1/2 out of 18 servings)


Dessert_textI’m not sure you can really call this a dessert, but after dinner I went out to the garden, picked a handful of raspberries, and ate them, along with an apricot from the store.

  • 1 c. red raspberries
  • 1 apricot

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruits (2 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

20 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything.

In addition, we had one extra serving each of berriesother vegetables, and whole grains (depending on how you want to count the corn).