To-Go Mug of…Broth?

Health trends are designed to be magnetic, and I admit, even I can’t resist. No matter how much my photo (3)Nutrition professors beat it into my head that there is no magic elixir for health, vitality, and longevity, my curiosity always gets the best of me. I just HAVE to see for myself what the latest buzz is all about. This fascination with topics in the foodscape is what makes me confident, and thankful, that I have landed on my dream career path. So, what is quickly swooping in to overtake the juicing trend of 2013? Bone broth.

Bone broth is slowly simmered over a period of 12-48 hours in a large stock pot on the stove or in a crock pot. Various recipes exist, but the main components are bones (chicken, turkey, or beef short ribs, oxtails, knuckles, neck bones, and feet), some type of acid (apple cider vinegar, wine, or tomato paste), roughly chopped veggies (celery, carrots, onion), and enough water to just barely cover the ingredients. For a deeper flavor, bones are often roasted in the oven for an hour before putting them in the broth. The acid promotes bone disintegration for release of nutrients. You can find the recipe I followed here, or feel free to explore others, such as this one from the NY Times.

Let’s get this out of the way first-I will not waste your time, enticing you with health benefits that may or not be supported. Very few scientific studies have been done on bone broth and it’s associated advantages. That being said, the broth DOES have ties to long standing traditions in many cultures, who believe strongly in it’s nourishing power.

Broth is cornerstone of the Paleo diet, in large part because of the evidence of its existence during prehistoric times. The broth seems to move throughout history while maintaining a steady presence in cultures from all parts of the globe. A similar light soup was part of many traditional Chinese meals for digestion, palate cleansing, and simply as a drink. In the Caribbean, “Cow Foot Soup,” rich in collagen is consumed in the morning for fortification and alleviation of a range of ailments. A comparable Sopa de Lima exists in the Yucatan, while there is Seolleongtang in Korea. In the U.S., chicken soup has been used to remedy the common cold for generations. Today, celebrities such as Divergent star, Shailene Woodley, and athletes such as LA Lakers star, Kobe Bryant, swear by the concoction. Restaurants, such as New York’s Brodo, JoLa Cafe in Portland, and Red Apron in Washington D.C., all serve up cups of this warm, comforting, and savory liquid.

While the Weston A. Price Foundation has completed analyses illustrating Bone Broth’s ability to decrease inflammation, improve dopamine levels, and help with digestive problems such as leaky gut syndrome and IBS, bloggers cite numerous additional perks including joint health/ relief from arthritis, improved wound healing, strengthening of the immune system, rebuilding of bone, shinier hair, prevention of wrinkles, elimination of cellulite, calmer nerves, and an overall deeply nourished body. The idea is that through long-simmering and bone disintegration, amino acids and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, collagen, chondroitin, and glucosamine, are available in higher quantities than traditional broths.

At the end of the day, author of The Nourished Kichen, Jennifer McGruther, sums it up best in an article by NPR. ” The real benefit of bone broth is that people are returning to the kitchen to prepare homemade, whole foods from scratch. There are always benefits to cooking foods from home, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing with bone broth.”

Teff- ‘The New Quinoa’

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My kitchen-sink Teff muffins pack a healthy, hearty, nutritional punch. Guilt-free nibbling encouraged : )

Ethiopian born Tirunesh Dibaba is one of my favorite female distance runners. If you have seen her effortlessly smooth and swift kick at the end of a long distance race, passing other ELITE competitors as if they are jogging, then you know why I admire her so much. She has won 2 olympic gold medals in the 10,000M (First woman to win back-to-back 10,000M olympic races- in 2008 then again in 2012), and a gold medal in the 5000M. She holds the women’s world record in the 5000M- 14:11.15. In 2014, she ran her first ever marathon in London, where she placed 3rd in a time of 2:20:34. How does she do it?? What super food is she eating to fuel her high level of training? While we know there is no secret diet or specific food that will transform our health and performance, it is still fun to learn about what our favorite athletes eat.

For thousands of years, a major food staple in the diets of Ethiopians has been a tiny grain that resembles a poppy seed, called Teff. The naturally gluten-free grain is a nutritional powerhouse often hailed as a superfood for it’s ample supply of minerals including Calcium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Copper, Thiamin, and key for distance runners- IRON. Just one serving of the grain (1/4 Cup dry) supplies 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 20% of the Daily Value for Iron. The grain also provides 8 of the 20 essential amino acids necessary for growth and repair within the body. Unlike other grains, Teff supplies Vitamin C, which improves Iron absorption.

In Ethiopia, Teff is ground into flour then fermented to make a sourdough flatbread called Inerja. The bread, thin like a tortilla, soft, and porous, serves as an edible platter for all dishes. Pieces of the bread are torn off and used to roll up bites of vegetables or other foods being served on it. According to an article by The Washington Post, the Whole Grains council estimates that up to 2/3 of the protein in Ethiopian diets comes from Teff. Ethiopian distance runners credit the grain with their energy and health.

Teff can be cooked on the stove like quinoa as a side dish at dinner, or it can be used as a breakfast porridge. Mix the grain into a salad for an added textural element. Teff flour, made by companies like Bob’s Red Mill, can be used to make pancakes, breads, and cookies.

I had to try Teff for myself so I experimented by concocting an original recipe of my own. I call them my Teff kitchen sink muffins because I threw in pretty much whatever I had in my pantry- miraculously, especially considering the difficulty of cooking with Gluten-free flours, the muffins were a yummy and satisfying success! Here is the recipe:

Dry ingredients: 1C oats, 1C Teff flour, 1C coconut flour, 3 tbsp freshly ground golden flax, 3 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 tbsp ground ginger root, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking power

Mix dry ingredients then make a well to pour the pre-mixed wet ingredients into.

Wet ingredients: 2 mashed bananas, 1/3 C honey, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 C goat milk (coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid and requires more egg), 1/2 C plain kefir, 1 tbsp melted butter, 3 eggs

Stir everything together. Top with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and diced pecans. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Yields 12 muffins.

Melissa’s Take on Bacon… And Other Forms of Fat

photo (2) The word ‘bacon’ grabbed your attention, didn’t it? People love to talk about bacon and how much they love it, but what about bacon makes it so desirable to many people? On a psychological level, a hankering for a hot, dripping slice of crispy bacon goodness is probably tangled up in its ‘forbidden fruit’ status for those trying to lose weight or keep a healthy heart. Physiologically, the craving is related to the fact that we require a certain amount of fat in our diets to regulate countless essential functions within our bodies. Considering that I enjoy bacon as much as the next person, I have been intrigued by the increasing number of recent reports rejecting low-fat diets and re-considering the role of fats, including the previously frowned upon saturated fats, in the diet.

A few decades back when Americans started realizing that they were gaining weight at about the same breakneck pace as reality TV was skyrocketing in popularity, they desperately searched for a way to trim back their diets. Fats (9kcal/g), being twice as dense as carbohydrates (4kcal/g) or proteins (4kcal/g) in caloric value, were denounced as the cause of expanding waistlines, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. By cutting the fat out of a food, the total number of calories can be decreased. Conventional wisdom says that weight management depends on the careful balance of calories in versus calories out, but it seems that there is in fact more to the equation. Cutting out fat also means cutting out flavor, as well as fat’s important role in providing satiety. To improve flavor, food manufacturers add sugar, sugar substitutes, and salt. By acting like engineers, taking things out and adding other things in, food becomes increasingly processed and distant from its natural, most nourishing state.

While monounsaturated (olive oil, canola oil, avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (sunflower and safflower oil) have been fairly well accepted as heart healthy, the reputation of saturated fats (bacon, cheese) has been less favorable. Information sources including Harvard Health, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post reveal that previous studies warning about the dangers of saturated fat were based on only a few shaky studies. Harvard Health characterizes saturated fats as ‘in-between’ fats that are not tied to ill health in moderation. Further, they seem to be neutral in their effect on blood sugar (insulin) levels, which is crucial to weight management and prevention of chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes.

Those who fear fat, consider this. Fat plays a critical role in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. Ever seen someone restricting their diet who’s skin was cracked and dry, hair and nails brittle and dull? A diet rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, with moderate amounts of saturated fats makes hair shiny and silky smooth, skin clear and radiant, and nails strong. It’s not about a vain interest in appearance, these outer indicators are directly correlated to the health of the body below the surface. Fat also plays key roles in building cell membranes, sheaths around nerves, and in hormone regulation.

So does this mean that you should start gorging on bacon everyday? Eating all the ice cream and pizza that you want if fat is okay? No! That is not what I am recommending. I am saying there is no need to be fat-phobic. Fat should be one part of a healthy diet along with high quality carbohydrates and proteins. Avoid fat that comes from processed food items. Make your own nourishing versions at home instead.

Reading about and ruminating over the fat debate reminded me what we all tend to forget sometimes- there is not one singular nutrition rule that will keep us in good health and at an appropriate weight. Let’s do away with the disjointed and archaic fat-free, low-carb diets of the past. It’s all about real food. Embrace all unprocessed, whole foods- fresh fruits, vegetables, full fat meat and plain whole milk dairy products, whole grains, nuts/seeds, even some treats in moderation. When possible, choose organic, sustainably farmed, non-GMO, and animal products from humane farms. Take the time to sit down and enjoy your meals with people you care about. Commit yourself to a holistic approach to health. It’s nourishing in more ways than one.

Notes: Some of you may notice that my views on nutrition are constantly evolving as I talk to more professionals in the field of food, nutrition, and wellness. I am always striving to learn more about health and deliver the best, most informed information to my readers that I can. What remains constant is my belief in unprocessed, real, whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible.

Today’s topic was inspired in part by Elyse Kopecky, a food writer and whole foods chef. Check out the awesome new cookbook she is writing with her friend and olympic marathoner, Shalane Flanagan: http://www.runfasteatslow.com/#cookbookproject

Title for this article was inspired by Christine.

Beet That Holiday Bulge

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Pureed beet pizza sauce

If you haven’t caught on by now, part of what I love about cooking is the chance to experiment! Because so many people find eating healthy to be flavorless and boring, I embrace the challenge of finding new, and I admit sometimes unusual, recipes to satisfy their cravings without leaving them saddled with guilt and love handles.

If the eggnog and holiday cookies got the best of you, and even if they didn’t, try this yummy pizza recipe that is loaded with flavor… and vegetable superpowers : )

Instead of regular tomato sauce, this recipe uses pureed beets. Like most vegetables, beets have numerous health benefits. The nutrient, Betaine, found in beets has been shown to prevent inflammation and protect cells from environmental stress. If you are an athlete, consider making beets a part of your training regimen as they have been shown to improve performance by increasing tolerance for high intensity exercise and decreasing the oxygen cost of low intensity exercise. The effect of drinking beet juice 2-3 hours before workouts is not minor. According to Runner’s World, performance is increased 12-14% which translates to a 1-2% decrease in race time. For more details on the ergogenic properties of beets, click here. Or, ask Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall who is reportedly a fan of the juice.

To make this pizza, I made a homemade crust out of 100% Whole Wheat flour and pre-baked the crust before topping it. Directions for making the crust can be found here. For the sauce I pureed 1 can of beets in a food processor with 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, juice from half a lemon, and a dash of salt. Next I piled on spinach, organic shredded cheddar cheese, diced mushrooms, and olives. Bake for 10-12 minutes @ 350 degrees and enjoy!

Green Superfood Cookies

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Here is a cookie that you can feel good about! Treat yourself to these light and sweet morsels that pack a serious nutrient punch:)

Spirulina is a blue-green algae typically mixed into foods in powder form. It is a complete protein that supplies iron and B-vitamins, including vitamin B12. Potential health benefits are numerous and include lowered cholesterol, weight management, treatment for allergies, control of ADHD, steady blood sugar levels in diabetics, immune system boost, improved athletic performance, greater energy levels, and longevity.

Goji berries, also known as wolf berries, are native to Mongolia, China, and the Tibetan Himalayas. The berries are a rich source of antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, which support eye health and may aid in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Other health claims include cancer prevention, decreased cholesterol, lowered blood sugar, improved circulation, longevity, and improved immunity. Individuals taking blood thinners, such as Warfarin (Coumadin) should talk to their doctor before including Goji berries in their diet due to possible drug-interaction.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C melted coconut oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 C 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 C coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp spirulina
  • Small handful of goji berries
  • 1 square of finely chopped 85% dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp of Qia original superfood blend (hemp, chia seeds, buckwheat groats)

Directions: Mix eggs, oil, and syrup together. Mix flour and baking powder together then stir into the liquid mixture. The batter will initially be thin and lumpy. Don’t worry- the cookies are not ruined! Keep whisking everything together and the batter will begin to thicken. Spoon the batter onto a greased or non-stick cookie sheet. The batter should make about 12 medium-size cookies. I had to experiment with the cooking time and temperature because the directions on the website I got this recipe from didn’t end up working- the cookies came out looking like soup. Try cooking for about 15 minutes at 325 degrees, but check them as they cook and adjust time and temperature as needed. The aroma of coconut from the flour and coconut oil will make your house smell heavenly!

Inspiration for this recipe was found here: http://www.wellnessholisticbeauty.com/2013/03/spirulina-goji-berries-cookies.html

Clean Eating in the Freezer Aisle #Convenient

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It is a myth that fresh foods in the produce department or at the meat/seafood counter are nutritionally superior to their frozen counterparts. Frozen fruits and vegetables may actually have a higher vitamin and mineral content than fresh versions due to the fact that they are often frozen immediately after harvest, eliminating the nutrient losses that are inevitable as produce sits on grocery store shelves. Another benefit of frozen foods can be convenience and lower prices.

Well, then why do people say that frozen foods aren’t healthy? Because many frozen foods are processed and very poor nutritional choices: Lean Cuisines, frozen vegetables in buttery sauces, or frozen fruit with sugar added… The trick is simply to read the label and opt for frozen foods with short, ‘real food’ ingredient lists. If you are buying frozen fruits and vegetables, such as green beans for example- the only ingredient should be green beans! Be weary of sodium content or strange added preservatives. If you pay attention to what you’re buying, clean eating in the frozen aisle is possible and a great option for many people!

Last night I was in need of something quick and easy for dinner so I threw together this simple, yet satisfying meal. I pulled a frozen salmon filet out of the freezer and put it right into the oven to cook for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F. Before putting the fish in the oven, I lightly seasoned it with thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Right before the fish was done cooking, I microwaved a cup of frozen green beans, grabbed a wheat dinner roll, and my nutritious meal was complete- in less than 30 minutes!

Hearty Homemade Vegan Pizza Slices

Honestly, when doesn’t pizza sound good?? I love making pizza at home because it can actually be quite healthy and just as satisfying! This past weekend I made a vegan pizza that is SO packed with flavor you don’t even have to be a health nut to enjoy it😉

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I started by making a whole wheat crust. I was out of honey so I proofed the yeast with 100% pure maple syrup-which ended up imparting the most amazing maple flavor in the crust. If you aren’t familiar with the bread making process, proofing the yeast just means mixing a packet of active dry yeast (found in the baking aisle of your local grocery store) with about 1/2 C warm water and some type of sugar to activate the yeast and allow it to expand. I usually use about 1 tablespoon of honey, but this time I substituted maple syrup. I whisk everything together in a small bowl using a fork. Tip: Sometimes it helps to use 2 packets of yeast when working with 100% whole wheat flour. This will make your bread fluffier, as wheat products can be very dense and heavy.

In a separate, large mixing bowl I mixed 1 C whole wheat flour with 2 tablespoons ground flax, 1/4 C oats, and 1 tsp salt. Next I poured in about 3/4 C warm water then gradually stirred in an additional cup of wheat flour. If the dough is sticky you may need to keep adding flour, if it is dry then use less flour. I kneaded the dough, then flattened it out on a stone baking pan and let it rise for about an hour covered with a clean kitchen towel.

Bake the crust for about 15 minutes @ 400 degrees F. You may also prefer to pre-roast some of your veggie toppings. Once the crust was cooked, I let it cool on the counter for about an hour before spreading the top with Mediterranean herb hummus, sliced red and orange heirloom tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, diced garlic, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Pop the pizza back in the oven at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let cool, slice, and enjoy!

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