Food of the Week: Sweet Potatoes
I love sweet potatoes, but I haven’t alway loved them. I remember the first sweet potato French fry that I had back in 2003 in Monterey. I hated them. Now, I could each them nearly every day. One of my favorite recipes for sweet potatoes is for savory sweet potato cakes from Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. This is a great recipe. We usually just bake them and add plenty of Kerrygold butter (grass-fed). Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends mashed sweet potatoes or crispy sweet potato fries. Yum!
- Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family and are not at all related to potatoes (nightshade family).
- They are native to Central America/northern South America. Colobus brought sweet potatoes back to Spain with him, but those original sweet potatoes were similar to carrots, not like our modern sweet potatoes.
- Their glycemic index is 45 (sugar is 100). The glycemic index of potatoes by comparison is 75-100. The glycemic index is a measurement of how much a food raises the blood sugar.
- They are rich source of antioxidants, especially the carotenes.
- In the supermarket, most yams are simply marked as yams, but are truly just another variety of sweet potatoes. True yams are hardly ever sold in the United States.
- If you’re looking to grow a very nutrient dense variety of sweet potato, opt for the Carolina Ruby.
- Do not store uncooked sweet potatoes in the fridge.
- Boiling sweet potatoes reduces their antioxidant value, while steaming, roasting, or baking does not.
- The skin is more nutritious than the flesh.
- Good source of vitamins C, B2, B6, and manganese, copper, biotin, and pantothenic acid.
- Good source of fiber.
- In animal studies, they have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
From: The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.
Well chickpeas are pretty normal for most folks and this is an easy one for me, since I’ve always liked them. They aren’t considered Paleo, so I don’t eat them super often, but I do enjoy some good hummus every once in a while. I add chickpeas to salads, enjoy them in chana masala, and love to make my own avocado hummus. Jennifer Tyler Lee also suggest making them into hummus or using them in a curry dish.
- Good Source of Vitamnins B6 and K, folate, thiamine, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, pantothenic acid, calcium, selenium, and potassium.
- Good source of fiber and contains protein. Must be served with grains to be a complete protein source.
- Rich in antioxidants.
- They are “in season” in late summer.
- Chickpeas are native to the Middle East.
- Due to their fiber content, they can help reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar levels. This makes them a great food choice for diabetics and those with insulin resistance.
- Chickpeas contain the trace mineral molybdenum, which is required for detoxification of sulfites in the body. Those that sensitive to sulfites and deficient in molybdenum may experience headaches, racing heartbeat, or confusion when consuming chickpeas.
- Eat with caution if you have gout or kidney stones. Chickpeas contain purines which are broken down into uric acid in the body. Uric acid can contribute to kidney stones and gout. Chickpeas also contain oxalate and those with oxalate containing kidney stones may consider avoiding chickpeas.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge, by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Micheal Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods by Tonia Reinhard.
Jennifer Tyler Lee has found something that I almost never eat; I believe I have had it once or twice. I don’t think okra is very common out here in California but I know I have seen it in some Indian dishes. It’s not that I don;t like it, but since it isn’t very common I haven’t sought it out much. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends sautéing it with garlic or making an Okra Risotto. I love risotto, so I’m supporting this option!
- It originated in Africa and migrated to the Mediterranean.
- It is a mucilaginous veggie which some folks like and other detest.
- Good source of vitamins A, B6, C, and K, folate, niacin, riboflavin, manganese, calcium, magnesium, copper, and potassium.
- Good source of fiber.
- It contains the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
- Studies have shown that the seeds in okra may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- In mice studies, the antioxidants helped to reverse cognitive deficits that were due to nerve damage.
- Cooking okra does not lessen the nutrient value.
- Younger okra pods are less mucilaginous.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Superfoods by Tonia Reinhard.
This week’s new food is Corn. While I do love corn on the corn and am totally addicted corn tortilla chips, this is a contentious food for me for a couple of reasons.
- Most corn is genetically modified. I personally don’t trust GMO foods and try to avoid them as much as possible.
- Corn is in everything. Dextrose, corn syrup, HFCS, maltodextrin, corn starch, and more. Many foods that are highly processed and then added to processed foods are also highly allergenic foods. As a species survival mechanism, plant foods contain tiny amounts of toxins. Overconsumption of one type of food builds up the amount of toxins we are exposed to. So I recommend limiting corn consumption.
- Corn is one of the top 8 most allergenic foods.
- Ever seen whole corn kernels in your stool? MOST people don’t digest corn well.
- It’s not a nutrient dense food and crowds out room for more nutritious foods.
With all that said, I do occasionally eat corn, I usually opt for blue or purple corn because these heirloom varieties are less likely to be genetically modified. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends a corn salsa or popping the corn while it’s still on the cobb. That sounds like fun! I DO love heirloom popcorn made on the stove with ghee and then topped with real butter. It’s my vice.
- Corn is native to Central America.
- Corn is high in vitamins A, B5, B6, C, folate, thiamine, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, riboflavin, and zinc.
- Good source of carotenoids, specifically zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin, as well as phenols.
- Carotenoids can help to lower blood pressure as well as reduce risk of breast cancer for post-menopausal women.
- Modern corn has been bred to have more sugar and is lower in phytonutrients.
- Blue corn has nearly thirty times the antioxidant values of modern white corn.
- Darker yellow corn varieties have more nutrients than white corn.
- There are other varieties as well: red, orange, purple, blue, and black. These varieties are rarely found at the store but could be grown at home.
- Frozen corn is equally nutritious as fresh corn; canned corn can also be as nutritious as fresh corn.
- Corn is not a complete source of protein alone.
- Corn contains niacin, but in whole food form, it is not bio-available. Native Americans soaked their maize in lime which allowed the niacin become available for the body.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods by Tonia Reinhard.
Flax seeds are up next and I’m happy to report that I like flax seeds and I eat them regularly. They have a host of health benefits , but most people do not properly prepare them, and therefore do not get to capitalize on their health benefits. Read on for how to properly prepare flax. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends adding ground flaxseeds to homemade granola bars or to strawberry-banana smoothies. In the food facts, I’ll add some precautions about using ground flaxseeds in these manners.
- Flax seeds are a good source of fiber.
- High in vitamin B6, thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper.
- They are also a good source of alpha-linolenic acid and phytoestrogens known as lignans. These have been shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
- Flax have been shown to protect against prostate cancer.
- Highest plant sources of omega-3 oils
- Benefits heart, arteries, skin, hair, & brain
- Great for your gut & constipation
- Antioxidant rich
- Protects against breast & colon cancers
- Create a mucilage when soaked in liquids (similar to chia seeds)
- Their densely packed nutrition cannot be accessed if not properly prepared. The body simply cannot digest, and therefore take advantage of, the nutrients housed in whole flaxseeds.
- You can grind them yourself if you have a Vitamix 32-ounce Dry Grains Container for a Vitamix Blender, or something similar. You can also buy them already ground, BUT the container should be opaque and there should be an expiration date that is fairly soon (a couple of months). They should be stored in the fridge (as with all raw nuts and seeds).
- You can also soak whole flaxseeds in liquid. This will increase their absorption. If you plan to add them to your yogurt, I suggest that you add them the night before. If you plan to add them to a smoothie, add them to whatever liquid you use in the smoothie the night before and allow them to soak overnight.
- I’m still on the fence about baking with them. Because Omega-3s are a fragile fat (heat-sensitive) I worry about baking with them. But I also know that while the oven gets fairly warm, the internal temperatures of baked goods doesn’t necessarily get to the oven temp. My current opinion is: if you bake with them, the oven temp should be 325-350 maximum and don’t eat them in baked goods all that often.
- Flaxseed oils should always be cold pressed, purchased in opaque bottles, and should be refrigerated.
- Be sure to never heat flax oil to avoid oxidation!
- Flaxseeds contain a moderate amount of oxalate, so those with a history of oxalate containing kidney stones should watch their consumption.
From Bauman College lecture notes, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes, by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet, by Tonia Reinhard, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
Photo Cred: Luv Kreativ Photography
It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes. I’ve never liked them. In fact, I’m the black sheep of the family in regards to my dislike of tomatoes. With that being said, I believe that one day I will love raw tomatoes [growth mindset]. I do like cooked tomatoes of all kinds (except ketchup, yuck!). I am starting to like heirloom tomatoes in a caprese salad. I think the reason I don’t really like tomatoes is because of their strong flavor – it totally changes the taste of a burger, sandwich, or salad. Jennifer Tyler Lee and I are kindred spirits in this way. 🙂 The other fact that helps me feel justified in not liking raw tomatoes is that unless it’s summer, tomatoes are either grown in greenhouses or internationally, or are grown in Florida (Florida’s “soil” is actually just sand and is void of nutrients). So unless they are garden tomatoes or farmer’s market tomatoes, they are often mealy and are picked when green. The book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit is fascinating. Highly recommended! Anywho… Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato pops! I recently made a cherry tomato chutney at a Sur la Table cooking class – it was delicious!
- They are technically a fruit!
- Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family (along with potatoes, eggplant, peppers- all kinds, and some spices). Nightshades are known to be inflammatory. Nightshades are commonly removed during a 5-R Protocol to determine food intolerances.
- There are over a THOUSAND different types of tomatoes and can be a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
- Native to South America.
- The leaves of the tomato are toxic. It was long believed that tomatoes were poisonous because they belong to the nightshade family which houses other poisonous plants (poisonous nightshade and black henbane).
- Great source of vitamins B6, C, and K, carotenes (especially lycopene), beta-carotene, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, and fiber.
- Lycopene content is FIVE times greater in cooked tomatoes because cooking causes the cell walls to burst and “free” the lycopene. Also, the redder and riper the tomato, the more lycopene content.
- Lycopene in particular has been shown to protect against cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and prostate. Additionally, it has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
- Highest levels of vitamin C can be obtained from raw tomatoes.
- Fully ripe tomatoes cannot be shipped long distances. Therefore they are picked when underripe and then gassed with ethylene. You probably know what I’m going to say here….buy them at a local farmer’s market, CSA, or grown your own!
- Cherry tomatoes have more lycopene per ounce and are sweeter and more flavorful than their larger counterparts. Smaller is better!
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipesby Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Healthby Jo Robinson, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Tonia Reinhard, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
Radishes more of a versatile vegetable than I had originally thought. Rewind to a few years back, and I only included raw radishes in salads or possibly in taco truck tacos. Nowadays I like them pickled and ROASTED! To roast radishes: simply top and tail the radishes and then cut in half (if using the cherry belle or french breakfast varieties; cut into smaller one inch cubes if using larger varieties). Add the radishes to a roasting pan with some grass-fed butter and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees until a knife easily pierces. They taste just like POTATOES!!!!! This is perfect for those avoiding nightshades or white carbs! Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends pickling radishes or wilting the greens and flash sautéing the radishes. Radishes are also quite easy to grow and mature very quickly.
- A member of the cruciferous veggie family.
- Depending on the variety, some are very mild, while others are very spicy.
- Several varieties grow in the spring (smaller, round or oval shape, crisp white flesh, less pungent), while others grow in the summer/fall/winter (larger, more fibrous, more pungent flavor, take twice as long to grow).
- Radish greens are edible and have significantly more vitamin C than the roots and more calcium as well.
- Radishes are a good source of vitamin C.
- Red Globe radishes are a good source of molybdenum, folic acid, and potassium.
- Daikon radishes are a good source of copper and potassium.
- Believed to be cancer-protective.
- Supports healthy liver and gallbladder function and can improve digestion.
- Have been used in India as a diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and to treat gastric discomfort.
- Cooking diminishes the vitamin C content (raw is the way to go! – unless of course you have radishes coming out your ears and you’re bored with raw radishes).
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
Butter lettuce is another favorite of mine. I appreciate that it has a mild flavor and is a healthier alternative to iceberg lettuce. While working for Tomatero Organic Farm, it was a very popular item. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends Chinese chicken lettuce wraps and of course, salad. Like Jennifer, I use butter lettuce in salads and in lettuce wraps. I think this is a great gateway lettuce for those that like iceberg lettuce in their salads (as I used to as a kid and teenager). It’s mild with a nice texture and can hopefully get people to start liking more nutrient dense and flavorful greens in their salads.
- This type of lettuce is has a delicate texture and a slightly sweet flavor.
- Common varieties include Boston and Bibb.
- The darker the leaves, the more nutrients due to higher photosynthesis activity, and therefore higher phytonutrient values.
- Additionally, the less tightly packed leaves on a head of lettuce, the more phytonutrients it has (i.e. iceberg has very tightly packed leaves, whereas loose leaf lettuces are not tightly packed at all). Lettuce leaves need sunlight to grow but the UV rays can also damage them. In order to survive, plants make “sunscreen” in the form of antioxidants. Those antioxidants make the plant more nutrient dense and that plant protection then becomes our own protection when we eat them.
- The inner leaves on the lettuce head are exposed to very little sunlight and therefore are very low in nutrients; as a result, the outer leaves are exposed to the most sunlight and are higher in nutrients.
- Precut lettuces (like in pre-made salads) start loosing their antioxidant values as soon as they are cut.
- Lettuce all are a good source of chlorophyll and vitamin K.
- Moisture on lettuce leaves cause them to prematurely degrade, opt for a salad spinner to rinse and dry lettuce. This can help the lettuce to last several days.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
I have always loved cucumbers. I find their crunchy texture and mild and refreshing flavor irresistible. It always baffles me that there are people out there that don’t like them (ahem…you know who you are ;-). I’m a HUGE fan of pickles (I’ll thank my Essenmacher roots for that!) and I love cucumbers on salads (green salads, pasta salads, etc.). I’ve also had refreshing cucumber waters and cucumber cocktails. Je
nnifer Tyler Lee also recommends Asian cucumber salad, minty cucumber salad, and cucumber tea sandwiches. All of which sound great!
- Seventy percent of the US pickle crop is made into pickles.
- Cucumbers are composed mostly of water, making them a very refreshing option during summer.
- The flesh contains vitamins A and C and folic acid, while the skin is rich in fiber and contains the minerals silica, potassium, magnesium, and molybdenum. [My thoughts on peeling vegetables: peeling them is just extra work AND it takes away vital nutrients, so no thanks.]
- Good source of vitamin K and B5, phosphorous, copper, and manganese.
- Cucumbers belong to the same family as melons, summer squash, and winter squash.
- Have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Are a good source of flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and whfoods.com.
While working at the Campbell Farmer’s Market, basil was always a top seller for Tomatero. Tomatoes, strawberries, and basil always brought folks to the booth. In fact, one of my coworkers would often wave some basil through the air to release the scent to help lure them in like Yogi Bear. I love basil. I like making traditional caprese salads, basil pesto, and my awesome sister-in-law Amy, makes a watermelon caprese salad (watermelon subs nicely for tomatoes for those avoiding nightshades). Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests trying a nut free pesto – using sunflower seeds or adding fresh peaches and basil to ice cream! YUMMMY! What’s your favorite use for basil?
- Sweet basil is the variety that we typically eat, however Holy basil or tulsi is a variety that is coveted for its medicinal purposes and is native to India.
- Excellent source of vitamins A, K, and C and maganese.
- It is rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids.
- Basil’s essential oils are antifungal and antimicrobial and have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi.
- It is also an anti-inflammatory and can be used to support conditions where inflammation is a factor.
- Basil should be stored with stems in a glass of water on the counter. Putting basil in the fridge turns it black.
- There are more than 60 varieties of basil.
- It belongs to the mint family.
- Some of the major medicinal uses include: digestive support, a mild sedative, headache relief, kidney support, poor circulation, and intestinal spasms.
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard.