Fun fact: for a year during middle school, I was a cheerleader. Pleated skirt, herkie jumps, the whole nine yards. Back then, I was cheering for our basketball team (go, Bulldogs!); but since then, I’ve focused my boosterism on an entirely different area.
If you can’t make out that scribble in my anatomy & physiology class notes, it says, “Yay colon!” I’ve researched it for work, read about it in school, and even toured it (twice!) when the Colossal Colon exhibit visited Boston many years ago.
Inside the Colossal Colon (photo by David Lapidus)
Sadly, not everyone shares my love for the large intestine. Why else would roughly half of North Americans fall short of their daily recommended fiber intake? (For reference, women should target 25 grams daily if under 50 years old, 21 grams if 50+; men should get 38 grams if under 50 years old, 30 if 50+) So why do we care? Head past the jump…
What happens when a team of nutrition-minded bloggers takes the cooking outside? You, dear readers, get a whole slew of tasty, healthy recipe ideas for the grill, courtesy of this month’s inaugural Recipe Redux.
Before we step outside, I should explain that Recipe Redux is a recipe challenge group focused on “reinventing the idea of healthy eating with a taste-first approach.” What’s unique about this project is that it was founded by RDs – Regan Jones of The Professional Palate, and Serena Ball and Deanna Seagrave-Daly of Teaspoon of Spice – and the majority of member bloggers are also dietitians. As an exception to the RD theme (not yet, but soon!), I’m thrilled to be included. Once a month, I’ll post my recipe for that month’s theme along with links to all the other members’ recipes.
Now join me in the backyard for June’s grilling theme. I thought I’d stretch myself a little and go with a vegetarian dish. The challenge, as I saw it, was to rescue vegetarians from the inevitable from-a-box veggie burger on the grill while making efficient use of the grillmaster’s time cooking something that everyone could enjoy. So I came up with these spiced-couscous-stuffed Portobello mushroom caps, a tasty dish that can be served as a main or a side.
If that title made you worry that I’m going to bore you to death with more off-topic running/marathon nonsense, relax. This week’s speed isn’t happening at the track but in the kitchen, with a trial of seven recipes from Cooking Light’s Superfast collection.
I tried this before and found it was a fun way to explore new dishes and learn some quick-prep tips. So when Cooking Light (via Facebook and Twitter) put out the call for Superfast fans to potentially be featured in the magazine, I grabbed my pretend stopwatch (iPhone app) and got cooking.
In the spirit of Superfast, no rambling musing over each dish this week – just seven quick reports on time spent, changes made, and tastiness achieved.
The trees in our area are still naked sticks, but I’m thinking leaves this week. A while back, I read what Michael Pollan had to say about the nutritional effects of our shift from eating mostly leaves to eating mostly seeds. I can’t remember which of his books this was in – either Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food – but you can read it here (scroll down to “From Leaves to Seeds”). Pollan talks about how compared with leafy foods, seeds (grains) supply much more omega-6 fatty acids and far less omega-3s. The same goes for meats from animals who eat grain-based feed instead of grass-based.
We need both types, but as with most things, it comes down to balance. These frenemy fats compete for the same enzymes in our body: too much of one (omega-6) can mean it is harder to convert shorter versions of the other (omega-3s like ALA) into the longer types (omega-3s DHA and EPA) our body likes to use. Researchers postulate that the low omega-3 content of the modern diet is one contributor to increased risk of several chronic diseases, and that we’d benefit from moving back to a diet with an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio more like 3:1 or 2:1. (See Healthy Kids Healthy Families for more detail).
Chard with pine nuts and raisins (alongside a good source of omega-3s, salmon)
Although the Battle of the Fats also relates to what our meat eats, I’d like to focus on the many reasons to get more leaves directly into your diet. They’re full of nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. Leafy foods are generally low on calories, so they add lots of volume to your food without adding it to your waistline at the same time. And there are so many options and preparations from which to chose, you can easily get the mild or robust, bitter or sweet, crunchy or smooth, main or side that you’re looking for. For example, look at the variety in this leafy early-spring bounty from my parents’ garden:
If I had any decent skills with a sewing machine, I would consider making teeny little capes for legumes to wear. Before anyone has me committed, I’ll explain: these guys are food superheroes.
It wasn’t until I took an introductory nutrition class that I fully appreciated them. In nearly every section of that class, legumes popped up as great sources of vital nutrients. Fiber and complex carbohydrates? Oh, heck yes. Economical, non-animal protein? One of the best sources. Iron? Yep. B vitamins? They’re in there. Potassium? Sure. Seriously, I could have written in “legumes” for every answer on my exams, and gotten 8 of 10 correct without even trying (not that I actually did that, she says to the people currently considering her grad school applications).