Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Mother Nature Tells Us

Apologies to anyone who read this post before it was finished- Miss Bonanza Jellybean hit publish prematurely.

I was watching a program on Veria Living yesterday (great channel!) on which Alex Jamieson, of Supersize Me fame, was discussing the health benefits of garbanzo beans.  She talked about how good they were for the heart, and how, coincidentally, they look quite similar to it.  The show host, Dr. Holly, then mentioned the resemblance of walnuts to the human brain, and how good they are for its health.  "Isn't it funny how nature does that for us?" She asked.  I found this topic so fascinating that I decided to look into it further.  Here's what I found.

Chickpeas- The Heart

Garbonzo Beans do look quite a bit like the heart, don't they?  And Alex Jamieson was right-they are full of heart healthy dietary fiber.  Fiber is only found in plant foods, and is a must in our diets. It reduces blood pressure, lowers LDL, and eases inflammation, thereby reducing risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.source

     Walnuts- The Brain
I think we've all noticed the (somewhat eery) resemblance between walnuts and the brain.  But did you know they are one of the best plant based foods for it?  That's because they "contain alpha-lineolic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, as well as other polyphenols that act as antioxidants and may actually block the signals produced by free radicals that can later produce compounds that would increase inflammation."(source).  Fish Oil has been in the supplement spotlight for quite a while now, but, despite what we've been told for years (and are still being told by recyclers of old information) research is now finding that the shorter chain fatty acids found in plants, such as walnuts, have similar effects to the long chain fatty acids in animal sources, even providing additional benefits due to their high levels of antioxidants.  Is there anything plants can't do?

Corn- The Pancreas

Once again- fiber, fiber, fiber, only found in plants, is absolutely essential for our health.  And the pancreas.  In fact, research has shown that people who eat high fiber diets have a 50%-60% lower risk of pancreatic cancer!(source)

Sweet Potatoes- The Liver

High in Vitamin A, sweet potatoes can actually loosen up tough fibers caused by excessive drinking or vitamin deficiencies, and eliminate free radicals that cause degeneration over time.(source)

Carrots- The Eyes

Speaking of Vitamin A, did you know deficiencies in this nutrient are the leading cause of blindness in developing countries and in the elderly?  Not something you want to mess around with.  Vitamin A removes free radicals from cells of the eyes and protects the surface of the eye, the cornea, from damage.(source)

Beets- Blood Vessels

Beets are high in nitrates, which not only open blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen to places in the body which are lacking, but also increase blood flow to the brain, possibly reducing risk of dementia.(source)

Alfalfa Sprouts- Hair

Chia Pets aren't the only things alfalfa sprouts grow hair on.  That's because they're high in protein- one of the highest protein plants you can eat, in fact.  Protein encourages hair growth and stimulates the roots of your hair.(source)  

Suffice it to say, Mother Nature is looking out for us, and has done her best to take the guesswork out of healthy eating.  I think we'd all do well to stop taking nutrition advice from labels and start heeding her signs.  Happy eating!

Picture Sources:  Kidney Beans, Kidney, Walnut, Brain, CornPancreas, Sweet PotatoLiver, Carrot, Eye, Garbanzo BeansHeart, BeetsBlood, Alfalfa Sprouts, Hair

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cajun Pasta Aglio E Olio

Some traditionalists will call this sacrilege.  I call them boring.

Yes, Pasta Aglio E Olio is perfect in its simplicity.  But there is much to be learned from its technique.

The first time I tried the original I was flabbergasted- it was positively creamy.  And yet there was absolutely no cream, no butter and flour involved.  It was a hit with the entire family, and quickly became a staple in our home.  It still is to this day.

Since my transition to a mostly vegan diet I've been missing a lot of old favorites.  My Southwestern Pasta recipe was one of my absolute favorites, so I utilized what I learned from Pasta Aglio E Olio to veganize it.  The results are amazing.  I really don't think I notice much of a difference between the two, and this version is so much healthier as well.  Not to mention easier!  No fussing over a roux, here.  I'm looking forward to utilizing this method in so many new ways.

Cajun Pasta Aglio E Olio

1 lb pasta noodles, any kind
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 tablespoons cajun seasoning (they vary by brand- I use and love this one
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lime, a few squeezes to taste
Optional- parmesan or nutritional yeast

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook noodles according to al dente instructions on box.  Meanwhile, sautee peppers and onions over medium heat in a bit of olive oil.  Allow them to soften a bit, then add garlic and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Continue to cook, stirring often so as not to burn the garlic, then add cilantro and remove from heat.  Remember to reserve 1/2 cup of your cooked pasta water, then drain rest of pasta in a colander and return to pot.  Using a rubber spatula, transfer sauteed veggies, along with all of the oil in the pan, and add to noodles.  Add pasta water, tomato paste, and cajun seasoning.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, then finish off with fresh squeezed lime juice.  Add parmesan or nutritional yeast if desired.  Enjoy!