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: corn pasta

Why corn pasta?wp-1469009419913.jpg

Variety! And because corn pasta is a nutritious whole-grain alternative to regular pasta, (suitable for people with Celiac’s). Usually, I go for whole wheat pasta because it’s the cheapest alternative where I live, but last weekend, I sprang for the corn stuff. Here’s how it turned out…

Nutrition info

Reading the labels: corn vs whole wheat, per 100 g, dry.

corn vs wheat

Did you notice that little asterisk * next to dietary fiber? That’s because I’m a little unsure about this one. Since the information for dietary fiber isn’t listed on the package, I entered it into cronometer. According to cronometer, corn pasta has a slight edge over whole wheat. However, my corn pasta is a mix of 80% corn and 20% rice – rice pasta being much lower in fiber content – so in my case, they’re probably about even. Of course, that’s all a big guess.

Performance

I thought that this bright yellow corn pasta would be pretty on the plate. In the end, the color cooked out of it, and it looked like a regular white pasta – that’s good news if you’re trying to get a skeptic to eat it – you can serve it to them and they’ll be none the wiser until you tell them, especially since it also tastes quite ‘normal’. It didn’t stand out as having a particularly corn flavor, and I found it to be roundly fulfilling, if slightly lighter than whole wheat pasta.

A note about cooking corn pasta

While it performed well in the pasta bowl, I was underwhelmed with the cooking process. With ‘regular’ pasta and whole wheat pasta alike, you have to stir it in the beginning to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, but, once it gets rolling, you can leave it alone until it’s time to drain. Not so with corn pasta – the more it cooked, the more it wanted to stick to the bottom, so you have to stir it consistently during cooking.

It also created loads of foam. I suppose that’s neither here nor there, but it’s just one more reason why you have to keep stirring it while it’s cooking.

Overall, I like it but I won’t go out of my way to get it over the cheaper and easier-to-find (in my area, anyway) whole wheat pasta. For people who have to avoid wheat, it’s a perfectly reasonable substitution other than the hassle of constant stirring.

Have you had corn pasta? If so, what did you think?