Today’s Health Morsel: Beets!

Today’s daily dozen meal plan starts out hot & sweet, ends with ice cream, and incorporates the beautiful beet. Plus, i’ll explain why nitrates are beneficial in beets but bad news in bacon.


 

breakfast_text

cornmeal_20160627_135454As the weather gets colder I have less desire for fruit in the morning. I’m a lot more interested in putting something warm in my belly. So, this morning I went for cornmeal mush.

  • 1/2 c. hot cornmeal mush w/
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. dried figs
  • 1 nectarine

Checklist items: 2 other fruits, 1 whole grains (3 out of 18 servings)


 

lunch_text

Even though it’s late September now, I still have loads of fresh lettuce in the garden, so I’m having a nice big salad of beans & greens, all from the garden, with Chef AJ’s House Dressing for lunch.

  • 1 1/2 c. borlotti beans
  • 1/2 c. arugula
  • 2 c. kamikaze lettuce
  • 1 T ground flaxseed to sprinkle on top
  • a little fresh basil, coriander & mint

Checklist items: 3 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, flaxseeds, spices (8 out of 18 servings)


 

dinner_text

beetroot-687251_640

Surprisingly, there’s a lot to say on the topic of beets. Let’s start with nitrates. Beets are high in nitrates. Nitrates can form nitrites, which are fine in themselves, but they can go on to form either nitric oxide or nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic – cancer-causing – so we definitely want to be sure that our beets are not giving us cancer. No worries! Nitrosamines form from nitrites in processed meats, in the absence of plants. This occurs in the meat itself before it ever makes it onto a dinner plate, so, even though a measly 20 mg of vitamin C blocks nitrosamine production, adding a salad to your sausage dinner isn’t going to help.

Nitric oxide, on the other hand, is what we get when we eat beets or other nitrate-rich whole vegetables. Our bodies love nitric oxide! It makes energy production more efficient by requiring less oxygen. This increases athletic performance, as well as endurance of any physical activity in people with emphysema, high blood pressure, and peripheral artery disease. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, increasing blood-flow especially to at-risk areas of the ageing brain. A side-effect of the body being able to produce energy more efficiently is metabolism reduction. That might sound scary, like beets will make you gain weight, but slower metabolism is actually associated with longevity. Nitric oxide is also effective at removing carcinogenic bile acids from our bodies. Of several vegetables tested, beets were #1 for this particular task (even beet-ing out kale).

There’s just one down-side. Though the best way to prevent most kidney stones it cutting meat out of the diet, people who are predisposed to absorbing oxalates may want to limit their consumption of beets, as they are a high-oxalate food. And, just in case you want to be extra sure that nitrite doesn’t turn into nitrosamine – you can always eat nitrate-rich foods with a single slice of bell pepper, or eat 2 strawberries before dinner. That’s all the vitamin C you’ll need (see sources).

The recipe I’m making comes from the Kitchn: Vegan Beet Pesto Pasta. I eyed it skeptically for a while before deciding to try it. It was amazing!! I absolutely loved it. And, as you might imagine, the color of your pesto makes this a fun meal to try with kids or guests. Plus, it’s super-fast to make – you basically throw the ingredients in a blender and it’s ready, making it the perfect dinner after a busy day. I made just 1 change from the original recipe, which was wp-1474350881956.jpgto replace the olive oil with the same amount of aquafaba. The amounts below reflect 1/4 of the original recipe, which was my serving size.

  • 1 1/2 c. cooked & drained whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 2 T crushed almonds
  • 1/2 large purple beet, cooked & peeled (a/b 1 c.)
  • 5 T aquafaba
  • 1 1/2 tsps red wine vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • chives, minced (optional)

Put everything except for the pasta into a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth (or see the Kitchn’s instructions, which are a bit more…complete. Don’t worry it’s only one more step). Toss with hot pasta and garnish with chives, if desired. Also, see the original recipe for much more beautiful pictures of this dish.

Checklist items: 2 other vegetables, 1/2 nuts, spices, 3 whole grains (6 1/2 out of 18 servings)


 

dessert_text

Banana-raspberry ice dream for dessert will finish off our fruit & nut requirements for the day. Life’s hard, eh?

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T crushed hazelnuts

Put everything into a high-speed blender. Pulse until the bananas are broken into small chunks and then blend until it’s the consistency of ice cream. Serving with crushed nuts on top.

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruit, 1/2 nuts, spices (3 1/2 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

21 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus 2 extra servings of spices & one of whole grains.

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Review: buckwheat

Why buckwheat?

I decided to give it a try after seeing it used in a recipe as a sort of salad garnish, like croutons, only not.

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When I finally found it (my region is not known for variety in its cuisine) I saw that I had 2 options – toasted or untoasted. Since the untoasted bag was about half the price of the toasted, I went for that one.

Nutrition info

Reading the label: per 100 g, dry.

corn vs wheat

In my review of corn pasta, I used cronometer to figure out the amount of dietary fiber, since it wasn’t listed on the package. In order to check to see how accurate cronometer may or may not be on that score, I entered buckwheat into cronometer, too. It says that 100 g of dry buckwheat contains 10.3 g fiber. So, obviously, it can vary and the numbers to the left are specific to the brand that I purchased.

Performance

wp-1469095778939The first thing I wanted to do with it was to try it like I’d seen in the recipe – sprinkled on salad. So, I toasted them in a pan on the stove over low-med heat for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure they’d toast evenly.

It smelled so good – like fresh-baked bread!! And they added the most wonderful crunch to the salad. I know umami is meant to apply to flavor, but if it can be applied to texture, then it perfectly describes what toasted buckwheat adds to a salad!

Next, I wanted to try it as a cooked grain, like rice, so I added 1 part buckwheat to 2 parts boiling water, turned the heat to low and let it cook for 30 minutes. I didn’t add any flavoring because I wanted to understand the taste of the buckwheat by itself before using it in other ways. It has a clean taste, a good foundation for any flavors you want to add to it. I think if I’d toasted the buckwheat before putting it in the water, it would perhaps have a slightly nutty flavor, but I’ll have to try it before I say for sure.

But what struck me, again, was the texture! Even cooked like rice, I still really love the texture of buckwheat!

When it was done, I added some cooked mushrooms and a little dressing, and ate some of it hot. Nice. Then I set it aside to taste it cold – I maybe liked it even better cold! I think this will be a really nice grain for tabbouleh-style cold salads.

If you haven’t tried buckwheat yet, I recommend you hop to it! It’s my new favorite thing.

Are you a fan of buckwheat? What’s your favorite way to eat it?