The Missing Week: Vegetables and the chocolate Trojan Horse

Have you heard me extol vegetables’ virtues previously – colon-friendly fiber, blood-pressure-loving potassium – but haven’t yet felt compelled to consistently eat your daily recommended servings? Maybe you’re suffering from Vegetable Nutrition News Fatigue (symptoms include rolling eyes and sighing after repeated exposure to vegetable-related health-benefit messages). If that’s the case, then I clearly need to resort to the heavy artillery: chocolate.

What’s that, you say? Chocolate.

Do I have your attention now? Good, because something else yanked my attention back to the topic of produce-heavy diets: a British study found not eating enough fruits and vegetables is the 2nd greatest modifiable risk for developing cancer in men, and the 5th greatest modifiable risk in women (approximately 40% of overall cancer risk is due to modifiable/lifestyle factors). This news isn’t entirely new, since research has previously linked a lack of dietary produce with risk of many cancers. But the fact that it is second only to tobacco among modifiable risk factors in men startled me, and I realized it was time to step up the vegetable evangelism.

So I put together a week’s worth of vegetable-heavy dishes once again, hoping to lure you into the garden of healthier lifestyle choices (no snakes here; just apples, or cabbage, I guess):

  • Collard green, tomato and hummus wraps, from Engine 2 Diet (here)
  • Eggplant “meat” balls, via Stillmans Farm (here)
  • Roasted tomato soup, from Battlemouth (here) – super simple, and who doesn’t love tomato soup & grilled cheese once the weather has turned chilly?
  • Root vegetable tagine, from Cooking Light (here)
  • Sweet potato avocado rolls with maple glaze, from No Face Plate (here)
  • Triple treat cabbage salad, from Dr. Fuhrman (here, up near the top)

But if your eyes just glaze over reading cabbage, eggplant and collard greens, maybe recipe 7 can be the proverbial smelling salts: chocolate veggie enchiladas.

I swapped out the cheese for the healthier fats and fiber in avocado, still keeping that creamy texture. And to help get the spinach, onions and zucchini past the gate, I’ve cloaked them in the Trojan Horse that is chocolate. In this case, it’s dark chocolate because that has a more reasonable balance of the good-tasting stuff and the good-for-you stuff (see Andy Bellatti’s explanation here).

Ready to modify some risk factors, or at least have a spicy, chocolate-y lunch? Here’s the recipe.

Chocolate veggie enchiladas (text file here)

You could make these even more veggie-y by doubling up the cooked veggies (onion, zucchini, spinach). When choosing chocolate, aim for at least 70% cacao content, and the higher the better.

4 servings, approx. 310 calories each

4 whole-wheat tortillas
½ Tbs olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 zucchini, diced
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp coriander
3-4 cups fresh spinach
1 avocado, finely diced
4 Tbs dark chocolate (approx. 40 g), chopped into very small pieces
¾-1 cup red enchilada sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and onion, and cook until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add the zucchini, cumin and coriander; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until the leaves have just started to wilt.

Remove the veggies from heat. Put one fourth of the veggie mixture into each tortilla, along one edge. Top each with ¼ of the diced avocado and 1 Tbs of chocolate.

Roll the tortilla up, starting with the veggie/avocado/chocolate side, and put them in a large baking dish, seam side down. Pour the enchilada sauce over top.

Bake the enchiladas for 15 minutes or so, until the chocolate is nice and melty. Enjoy!

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