Saturday, March 31, 2012

Super Salad #6: Mexicali Fiesta

4 c. cooked black beans
2 c. fresh or frozen corn, lightly sauteed
1 c. jicama, chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 each: red, yellow, orange, and green bell pepper
1 1/2 c. cooked millet
3 hearts romaine, chopped
Tomatillo-Avocado Dressing, below

Toss beans, corn, jicama, celery, bell peppers and millet. Spoon onto romaine and serve with dressing.

Tomatillo-Avocado Dressing
3 tomatillos, husked
½ c. cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
½ jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small avocado, peeled and pitted
4 green onions

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add a pinch of salt if needed.

To your health and happiness,

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eskimo Cookies

 From my childhood, I've had a favorite no-bake refrigerator cookie. It was the first recipe my own children learned to make. But sugar and butter were the top two ingredients. Now, I'm presenting it in a nutritarian version.

1 c. almond butter
1 c. dates
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. almond milk
2-3 Tb. cocoa powder
2 c. old fashioned oats
unsweetened coconut flakes

Process first five ingredients in food processor until smooth. Add oats. Pulse to mix. Form balls. Roll in coconut. Refrigerate. Makes about 2 dozen.

To your health and happiness,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Nutritarian Brain

It's NOT what you see that counts! Too often we focus on image - the before and after shots - when we embark on nutritional changes. But it's what's going on at a cellular level that really matters!

I recently attended a seminar on Food, Stress and the Brain that helped me see more clearly what we are really doing to our gray matter when we opt for "pizza, pop, and pop-tarts." Our three mechanisms for regulating appetite are rapidly thrown off-kilter when we indulge in high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium foods.

  • The first mechanism, the homeostatic system, is like our car's fuel pump. Using hormones, it signals us to eat when we are low on nutrients and stop when we are full. Insulin and leptin play a vital role here as they carry feedback to the hypothalmus in the brain.Unfortunately, eating junk food not only causes insulin resistance, but also leptin resistance. Our bodies can be flooded with these hormones but be unresponsive. (Having high triglycerides actually impairs the transport of leptin) The brain, like a conscientious mother, can be screaming at her cell children to "clean up this mess," but the more cluttered the "home," the more they tend to tune her out. She increases her messages (i.e. sends out more leptin and insulin) and the cells resist even more.
  • The hedonistic system is all about pleasure. When we eat food, we feel good. As a survival mechanism, this system rewards us for nourishing ourselves and it punishes us when we starve. This mechanism is what keeps infants nursing when they are so weak and tiny. The key player here is dopamine. When a food is perceived as pleasurable, dopamine is released in the brain, encouraging us to keep eating until we are full. At that point, leptin and insulin kick in, shutting off dopamine. But new hyper-palatable foods full of MSG and artificial flavors and colors keep the dopamine response revved up and over-ride homeostatic cues that stop the drive to eat. (That is why you can't have just one Doritoes chip.)
  • The adrenal system operates not in response to food, but rather, in response to stress. But if we feed our stress with comfort foods, we will throw the hedonistic and homeostatic systems out of whack. See, when the adrenal glands release cortisol, they are trying to prepare the body for "fight or flight." Eating helps the body prepare. Therefore, cortisol is designed to increase the salience of comfort foods. But today's comfort foods contain too much sugar and bad fat. So they taste really good, but they don't nourish. In other words, they increase dopamine and contribute to leptin and insulin resistance, causes our body's appetite-regulating mechanisms to mal-function. In the meantime, cortisol triggers the storage of abdominal (visceral) fat and initiates systemic inflammation
 So what's the answer? A four-prong approach fits nicely with a nutritarian diet:
  • Stabilize blood sugars: By satisfying the human sweet tooth with fruits instead of refined sugars, we lower blood glucose and prevent or reverse insulin resistance.
  • Lower glycemic index: Raising our fiber intake through vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and seeds, reduces storage of visceral fat, improves leptin receptivity and improves blood sugar stability.
  • Limit high-fat foods: Eating healthy omega 3's (such as those found in flax and chia seeds) preserves brain function, while consuming unhealthy fats (such as those in fast foods) triggers cravings and addictions.
  • Decrease cortisol-induced inflammation: Eating anti-oxidants (lots of colorful produce) may not relieve stress, but it can undo the damage stress causes.
So, don't just stay plant-strong for looks. Do it for your BRAIN.
To your health and happiness,

Super Salad #5: Jewelled Salad

5-6 clementines or mandarins, sectioned
½ purple onion, chopped
1 ½ c. cooked quinoa
2 avocados, sliced
1 c. chopped pecans
1 bag spring mix
1 head romaine

Toss and serve with Orange Vinaigrette

Orange Vinaigrette
½ c. orange juice concentrate
¼ c. agave
2 Tb. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ c. water
2 tsp. ground chia seeds
¼ tsp. oregano
2 Tb. alfalfa sprouts

Combine in blender and process until smooth.

To your health and happiness,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Super Salad #4: Berry Luscious

4 oz. blueberry pomegranage juice concentrate
4 oz. water
1 Tb. cornstarch
1 c. blueberries
1 pomegranate, seeded
1 banana, sliced
1 Tb. chia seed, ground
½ c. cooked quinoa
1 head red leaf lettuce, torn

Bring juice concentrate, water and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in fruit, chia and quinoa. Spoon over lettuce. Top with nuts.

To your health and happiness,

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Super Salad #3: Cauli-Pepper Roast

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
4-5 bell peppers
¼ c. balsamic vinegar
¼ c. Braggs liquid aminoes
½ tsp. each: basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and oregano
1 bunch kale, cut into ribbons
Whole grain crackers or pita bread

Steam cauliflower just until soft. Meanwhile, broil bell peppers until blackened on all sides. Remove from broiler and peel off skin under cool running water. Cut of stem end and remove seeds. Slice into long strips.
Combine vinegar, liquid aminoes and spices in an airtight container. Add cauliflower and bell peppers. Stir to coat. Marinate at least 20 minutes (can be left overnight if refrigerated).  Spoon onto kale and top with walnuts. If desired, spoon into pita bread or serve with crackers.

To your health and happiness,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Super Salad #2: Island Broccoli Slaw

 4 c. grated broccoli stalks (or bagged broccoli slaw)
¼ purple onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (red, green or orange)
2 stalks celery, chopped
8 oz. canned water chestnuts, drained
1 ½ c. fresh pineapple (or 29 oz. canned pineapple, drained)
¼ c. pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1 ½ c. cooked red beans

Toss veggies, fruit, seeds & beans with dressing. Serve with Hurricane Dressing and Pineapple Rice.

Hurricane Dressing
10 oz. Simply Fruit orange marmalade
3 Tb. rice vinegar
¼ c. alfalfa sprouts
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Combine and blend in food processor or blender until smooth

Pineapple Rice
2 ½ c. water
½ tsp. salt
2 Tb. pineapple juice concentrate (may substitute orange)
1 c. brown jasmine rice

Bring water, salt and juice concentrate to a boil.  Add rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer until water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

To your health and happiness,