Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘Organic’ Category

Grilled Japanese Eggplant


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I needed a side dish to bring to a party and had all these cute little eggplants from the farmer’s market. “What to do with them?” I thought. Well I figured making an Asian inspired dish would fit the bill, and I would feel good about bringing a healthy dish.

The eggplant is a nutritional winner. Low in calories and fat, rich in fiber, it has a low glycemic index, contains many essential vitamins and minerals and is high in antioxidants. These properties are effective in helping to control cholesterol ,  sodium and the inflammatory processes that are harmful to our bodies.

And now, the recipe . . . . . .

Use the long, skinny, baby eggplants. I used the purple and white striped variety, but any color will do. You do need the thin, baby variety however, as they have no seeds and are ore tender than the mature types.

Ingredients:

12 baby eggplants, washed, stems removed and sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup soy (regular, tamari or reduced sodium)
1/3 cup sherry or port wine
3 TBS sesame oil
1 tsp hot pepper flakes, ground (can substitute another chili-based hot sauce)
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Roasted sesame seeds
Optional: fresh grated ginger (about 2 tsp)

Directions:

Mix the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, pepper flakes, garlic, and black pepper and pour into a large , flat pan (a foil-lined cookie sheet is good). Place the eggplant halves in a single layer, into the pan, cut side down. Let them marinate for half an hour on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for a convection oven, or 400 for traditional oven.

After half an hour of marinating, pour off the excess marinade into a bowl and set aside. Place the eggplant pieces into the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant over, cut side up, brush with some leftover marinade and roast for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top. This can be served hot or at room temperature.

You can also grill them on the barbecue, but use one of those mesh grill pans or the delicate eggplant will get too mushy and fall through the grates of the grill. Cook on lower heat and for less time than in the oven.

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Living with Vegans


Please forgive my hiatus. Between a new job and studying for my national registration, my brain could not focus on anything else. Yes, I passed the exam; thanks for wondering. Now that I am on vacation, I can get back to business. (Now that’s an oxymoron!)

Today’s topic of conversation is veganism. Two of my sons’ friends are vegans. It started with a personal challenge, then they kept on doing it. It has been three and a half years for one; 4 years for the other. At the beginning, they ate all kinds of “imitation” foods like fake bacon and fake hot dogs. I questioned them about the spirit of going vegan, and the contradiction of eating foods that would be unhealthy if they were real. Further, they were eating a lot of processed foods, with ingredient lists 3 inches long. Since then, they have grown and become more educated about eating a healthy vegan diet.

Many people approach the decision to go vegetarian or vegan without enough information. While it is a healthy lifestyle choice, one must adhere to some nutrition guidelines to ensure healthy intake of essential nutrients. Giving up animal products entirely (strict vegan) presents a few challenges that can be overcome with attention to the diet.

The staples of the vegan diet should include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, soy and seeds. The less processing, the better, to provide the best nutritional quality.

Plant based diets contain sufficient protein, iron, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, and zinc. A crucial ingredient missing from the diet however, is Vitamin B-12, which is necessary for proper nerve and brain function. Lack of it, over an extended period of time can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system. Some soy and rice drinks are fortified with B-12, as well as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.

Animal products provide the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. When eliminated from the diet, extra care must be taken to ensure enough of this vital element. Iron is plentiful in fortified cereals, legumes and soy, dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, molasses and potatoes with skins. Iron is absorbed from cast iron cookware. To boost the absorption of iron, consume foods with vitamin C along with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes, dark greens (like kale and collard greens) cabbage and broccoli. Note however, that iron and calcium compete for the same absorption receptors, so they should not be eaten together. Caffeine also interferes with iron absorption, therefore should be avoided at mealtimes.

Consume protein rich tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, soy (milk and other products), whole grains, legumes and vegetables daily.

Calcium can be a challenge if meals are not carefully thought out. Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, some tofu, almonds, seaweed, fortified soy milk, beans, figs, and unrefined molasses supply calcium. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption. You can get it by exposing your skin to sun 10-15 minutes per day or by consuming fortified soy or rice milk or a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA and DHA. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found mainly in the oil of flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, rapeseed (canola oil), and soybeans. ALA reduces blood clotting, and is good for the heart. The body converts some of the ALA into two other essential omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA. These two are also found to a small degree in seaweeds, and there are vegan DHA supplements available made from micro-algae. Low levels of DHA have been associated with depression. A tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or a teaspoon of flax oil per day will meet the needs of most people.

You need iodine for normal cell metabolism, and it is easy to get enough if you used iodized salt. Fancy salts such as sea salt, are not iodized. If you use them, you need to get your iodine elsewhere. It is found in seaweed and some vitamins.

Zinc is important for would healing. Rich sources include eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, sprouts, legumes, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, miso, millet and quinoa.

Being a vegan or vegetarian can be a healthy lifestyle choice. It will require more attention to your diet however, to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Natural, Organic or Processed?


Since much of the terminology used in food advertising is not regulated, manufacturers are able to make very misleading claims. To understand better some of the definitions and limitations to the truth about these claims, see this article:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Natural+doesn+mean+good/5303918/story.html

While organic food is defined with a little more integrity, it is not cut and dried. Also, organic is more expensive, so save your dollars for when it really counts. Eating your fruits and vegetables is important to your health – and usually overshadows the risks posed by pesticides. For the most part, fruits and vegetables with a thick skin or rind that will be peeled can be safely consumed. In any case, always wash the surface before breaking the skin or you risk getting bacteria from the outside on the part you will consume.

Each year, a list of the cleanest and dirtiest (referring to pesticides) is published. Here is a link to the recent list:

http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

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