“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates
Using food to heal dates back thousands of years, and, combined with the use of herbs and spices, was the basis of early medicine in all cultures. Yet nutrition, something that should be intuitive and hard wired into our DNA, has become complicated and confusing. A global economy means you can eat tomatoes all year round, and industrial farming means they may be genetically modified to make them prettier, resistant to pesticides and sturdy for worldwide travel. Should you eat the GMO tomato as part of a plant based diet or not?
The human digestive system was designed for a largely plant based diet, with small amounts of animal protein. Plants provide fiber necessary for gut heath, plant protein, nutrients, vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes. Locally grown organic fruits and vegetables are always the best choice over GMO and non-organic. We simply do not know the long-term effect of pesticides, and the introduction of other genetic factors into our foods, may ultimately mean to our bodies and the planet.
There is a tremendous amount of evidence showing that eating a largely plant-based diet — fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes — can help prevent lifestyle diseases. The fastest growing cause of death in the world is not from infectious diseases, but diseases caused by diet and lifestyle. A diet rich in plant foods is protective against heart disease, cancer, strokes, arthritis, and many other chronic degenerative diseases. A diet with low intake of plant foods, like the Standard American Diet, is linked to the development of these diseases. With this in mind you can decide to take control over what you put into your body and improve your health every single day.
You’ve heard the saying “eat the rainbow;” that is because the more brightly colored the fruits and vegetables, the more nutrient dense and vitamin packed. Vary your diet with the seasons, be adventurous at the farmers market, and seek out the most colorful and delicious vegetables you can find. Explore all the varieties of beautiful and colorful beets, cooking the greens as well as the roots. Make mushrooms part of your diet; grilled, sautéed or raw in salads. Make soup each week from any left over veggies. Let your food be your medicine, and make your diet support your long-term health and lifestyle goals.
Tomatillos are a delicious native of Mexico and a member of the nightshade family. They are closely related to the little yellow cape gooseberry and are often used in salsas. High in dietary fiber, low in calories, tomatillos are good for digestive health and help regulate blood sugars. Tomatillos contain a unique antioxidant phytochemical called withanolides, which have been directly linked to anti-cancer and anti-bacterial functions. Recipe makes about 1 cup.
- 6 medium tomatillos rinsed and husked.
- 1 jalapeno or 2 serrano chiles stemmed, seeded and chopped finely.
- 6-7 sprigs cilantro rough chop.
- ¼ cup chopped red onion
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice and salt to taste.
- Roast tomatillos and chilis on a baking sheet under a hot broiler until black and roasted, approximately 5-6 minutes a side. Flip and broil other side.
- Place tomatillos, chiles and their pan juices in food processor.
- Add ¼ cup water, cilantro and pulse into a chunky mix.
- Chop red onion and rinse under cold water. Drain and blot dry.
- Stir onion, lime juice and salt into chile, tomatillo mix. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Serve with blue corn tortilla chips or as a sauce for chicken, pork or seafood.
Jicama is known as the Mexican “potato”, because it is often substituted as a version of a baked potato in Mexico. It is in the sweet potato family, but has the texture and crunch of a water chestnut. Delicious and nutritious raw or cooked, jicama is fiber-rich and low in carbohydrates, clocking in at only 49 calories a cup. It is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium and trace minerals.
These are addictively delicious, but take a long time to dry out in the oven and become crisp. I like to make them on days when I am working at home as a nutritious treat.
- Peel a medium size jicama and cut in half lengthwise.
- Slice the jicama on a mandoline set to about 2mm.
- Spread the slices in a single layer on two to three parchment or silicone mat-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
- Brush jicama on both sides with a thin coating of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Bake 225°F, turning the jicama every 20 minutes until crisp, two plus hours baking time.
- Chips are done when golden and crisp.
- Remove chips to a baking rack, they will continue to crisp as they cool.
Eggplant is an excellent source of dietary fiber and a very good source of vitamin B1, B6 and potassium. Research on the health benefits of eggplant have focused on a flavonoid in the skin called nasunin, a powerful antioxidant and free-radical scavenger, shown to protect cell membranes from damage. Miso is a good source of many minerals, including zinc, manganese, phosphorous, Iron, and copper. Miso also contains vitamin B2 and B6, as well as protein and dietary fiber.
I love the delicious simplicity of this recipe. Miso Glazed Japanese Eggplant shines as an entree, or a side, and the addition of miso adds cancer fighting benefits as well as umami, making this my go-to recipe for eggplant. Recipe serves 2 as an entree or 4 sides.
- 2 Japanese eggplant washed and sliced in half.
- 2 tbsp Mirin sweet rice vinegar
- ¼ cup organic white miso paste
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp chopped scallions or spicy sprouts
- Preheat broiler to high.
- Brush both sides of the eggplant halves with 1tbsp vegetable oil.
- Combine all other ingredients, except sesame seeds and sugar, mixing until smooth.
- Place eggplant halves skin side up on a parchment or a silicone lined baking sheet.
- Broil on second level down from the element until skin starts to darken 3-5 minutes.
- Turn eggplant over and broil flesh side 2 minutes.
- Brush flesh side thickly with miso mixture, sprinkle with sesame seeds and sugar, continue to broil until bubbly and softened.
- Remove from heat and sprinkle with scallions or sprouts.
The beet belongs to the same family of vegetables and chard and spinach. Beets are a double nutrient powerhouse, you can eat both the greens and the root. The beet greens are higher in nutritional value than the roots, with high amounts of calcium iron, and vitamins A and C. The beetroot is a excellent source of fiber, manganese, folic acid and potassium. Both are a good source of magnesium, phosphorous, iron and vitamin B 6.
Beets have many medicinal uses and are especially beneficial for disorders of the liver because they help stimulate the detoxification processes. The pigment that gives beets their bright colors, especially the deep crimson, is betacyanin, known to be a powerful cancer-fighting agent. Beets are also loaded with beneficial fiber which has a positive effect on digestion and helps to lower cholesterol.
Kristen’s Favorite Beets
- 1 bunch beet Greens
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 large cloves garlic chopped
- ½ cup chicken broth
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Wash beet greens and slice into thick ribbons.
- Either steam in microwave vegetable steamer, or a pot until wilted. Drain well.
- Heat oil in skillet and sauté garlic until fragrant.
- Add greens and broth(as needed) cook until greens are softened.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 2 Chioggia beets gently scrubbed with greens and root tail removed.
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped chives
- 1 tsp Maldon sea salt & fresh pepper to taste
- With a sharp knife or mandolin slice the beets into paper thin rounds.
- Place beet slices and olive oil in a zipper plastic bag and let sit until ready to serve.
- Arrange beet slices on plate and squirt with lemon juice.
- Sprinkle with shallots, chives, salt & pepper.
- Serve with extra olive oil.
- 1 bunch golden beets trimmed and rinsed.
- 1 large chopped shallot
- 1 tbsp chopped dill, thyme, basil or chives
- 1 tsp grated lemon or orange zest
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon or orange juice
- 2-3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place whole, trimmed beets in a pyrex baking dish with ½ cup water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Bake for an hour or until beets are soft( not mushy) to the touch.
- Remove from oven and remove foil. Let cool.
- Peel beets and then slice into thick wedges.
- Place warm beets and all other ingredients in a bowl and toss to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Where To Find Them, How To Eat Them
There is absolutely nothing better than a perfectly ripe piece of fruit eaten at the peak, in season. Nowadays most fruits are available year round in local grocery stores, and that means that most of us are eating our favorite fruits all the time and experiencing less variety. It’s just human nature, if you like strawberries and they are available you will probably buy them instead of apples or pears. There are a lot of nutritional benefits to adding more fruit variety to your diet and I challenge you to be more adventurous and take advantage of some delicious fruits that you might never have heard of.
One of my favorite places to find interesting fruits are Asian and International markets, but check the your local grocery for unusual seasonal fruit additions. I look for Dragon Fruit, Prickly Pear, Cherimoya, Passion Fruit, Star Fruit and pretty much anything that looks exotic. Some of these fruits are best eaten raw, as a topping or in fruit salads, others have seeds or pits and benefit from straining and,or cooking.
Taste – Cherimoya is often referred to as the custard apple and tastes like a combination off pineapple, banana, strawberry peach and papaya-WOW!
Health Benefits – Zero saturated fat, cholesterol-free, high in fiber, iron, and niacin, and contains vitamin C, a natural antioxidant that helps the body resist infection, as well as B vitamins. Contains more minerals per weight than many more common fruits because of its copper, magnesium, iron and manganese content.
Eat -The best way to eat a cherimoya is to tear or cut it in half, remove the seeds and eat in slices or put in a fruit salad.
Taste – Dragon Fruit, also known as Pitaya, is similar in texture to kiwi and has a mildly sweet taste like kiwi, watermelon and pear combined.
Health Benefits – High in phytonutrients, rich in antioxidants and contains vitamin C, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and several B vitamins for carbohydrate metabolism, as well as, carotene and protein. Because Dragon Fruit has zero complex carbohydrates, it is be more easily broken down in the body with the help of vitamin B1 (thiamin) and the other B vitamins.
The seeds of dragon fruits are high in polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) that help to reduce triglycerides and lower the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
Eat – Dragon Fruit is delicious raw, just cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Can be used in smoothies, fruit bowls and is also tasty grilled.
Taste – Passion fruit is distinctly sweet and tart, with a jelly like texture.
Health Benefits – Rich source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fiber. Each fruit has about 100 calories. High in Vitamin C & A as well as potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.
Eat – Simply cut in half and eat the jelly like filling with a spoon. Delicious spooned over soft cheeses, on yogurt or as a dessert topping. Can also be used in baking and made into a flavorful syrup for use in drinks and sauces.
Taste – Similar in flavor to watermelon.
Health Benefits – Loaded with dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium and antioxidants. Has been used for centuries as a home remedy for headaches due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Eat – Because of the small rock like seeds it is best to puree and strain the delicious flavorful juice. The strained juice can be used in marinades and grill sauces and it makes a tasty addition to drinks and can used to flavor baked goods.
Taste – The tart little berries have the texture of cherry tomatoes and a pleasantly acidic mango like flavor.
Health Benefits – Low in calories and loaded with vitamin C and other beneficial antioxidants. Especially high in flavones and anthocyanin that are helpful in preventing cancer and neurological diseases.
Eat – Can be used substituted for cherry tomatoes or cooked and used in desserts. Makes an especially delicious salsa that is tasty with grilled meats and seafood.
So, get inspired and add some sexy new flavors to your diet, with delicious and nutrient dense exotic fruits that your palate and your body will love.
The Cape Gooseberry is also known as the Peruvian cherry and it is native to South America. Gooseberries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C making them a delicious healthy choice to add to salads, sauces and make into salsas.
- 1½ pints Golden Gooseberries
- ⅓ cup chopped red onion
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- In a food processor, first combine onion, garlic and cilantro, pulsing on an off until combined. Add tomatoes and lime juice. Pulse to blend. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Serve with cut vegetables as a dip, chips or as a sauce for grilled meats and seafood.