Monthly Archives: April 2014

Reflections on a Cleansing Meal Plan

Spring has arrived! And with it, hopefully, a renewed desired to eat healthy. At least that’s what I was thinking. Though my eating habits never seriously stray into the realm of bad choices, I felt that my boyfriend, Greg, and I were due for a period of conscious clean eating. Nothing too extreme was necessary; this was not a true cleanse- we still ate food! I just wanted to help relieve some problems that were most likely stemming from food choices.

Specifically, Greg has been having some pretty severe gastrointestinal issues lately, which I suspect is a result of his dairy consumption… Actually, he’s had these problems for quite some time, and I am anxious to get to the bottom of it. So, I eliminated dairy to see if this is indeed the culprit. In addition, I basically took out any commonly allergenic foods, such as wheat, soy, and corn, in order to give the digestive system a rest. This is probably pretty obvious, but processed foods, sugars, coffee, and alcohol were also avoided. All animal products, with the exception of fish, were eliminated as well.

Overall, the purpose of this whole foods-based “cleanse” was to provide our bodies with an influx of nutrients through the consumption of organic, unrefined, alkalizing, allergen-free foods that are easily digested and absorbed by the body. Out with the crap and in with the nutrients! SO, I made this 5-day cleansing meal plan to make my goal an empirical, easily obtainable reality. First, let me go over several of the food choices listed on the plan. I want you guys to know there is a method (and reason) to my madness!

  • Smoothies: This is probably a pretty obvious one… These delectable treats are a great source of concentrated nutrients in an easy-to-digest form. Remember, you still have to “eat” your smoothie though! The more you chew your foods, and even liquids, the easier it is to digest them, allowing the body to focus on more important things, like immunity, detoxification, and energy production.
  • Oatmeal:¬†Though this may seem like an unlikely food choice for a whole foods cleanse, I included it for its excellent fiber content and, to be quite honest, its ability to enhance my bowel movements exponentially. TMI. Also, I know some of you are probably anti-agave, so feel free to skip that ingredient and just add cinnamon. Or maple syrup, whatever ūüôā¬†
  • Sardines, Salmon, and Cod:¬†While this meal plan is mostly vegan, I thought adding a little fish into the mix would be good idea because of their high omega-3 content. These fatty acids are a powerful source of anti-inflammatory properties, which are important for me to consume due to my active lifestyle. I want to reduce the incidents of stiff and swollen joints as much as possible! In addition, there are virtually no other significant sources of protein in the diet, except nutritional yeast, and I didn’t want to go hungry (or increase the potential for succumbing to cravings). I don’t necessarily believe in starving oneself during a cleanse.¬†
  • Beets:¬†These sweet, albeit messy root veggies contain a group of phytonutrients called betalains that have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory, detoxification, and antioxidant support. Detox and cleanse are two words that go hand-in-hand, so I obviously included lots of beets in the plan. And who doesn’t love red poop?! Sorry, there are way too many references to bowel movements in this post.¬†
  • Dulse:¬†If you don’t know about the wonders of dulse (and sea veggies in general), then listen up! They contain pretty much every trace mineral known to man in super concentrated amounts. You only need a little sprinkle of dulse flakes… so put it on everything!
  • Cilantro:¬†This is another potent detoxifying food. Cilantro can actually chelate (remove) heavy metals from your body so eat this tasty herb often for maximum benefit.
  • Soup/Broth:¬†Liquids are easy for the body to digest and assimilate and soups/broths are mineral rich, warming, calming, and of course, cleansing!
  • Fruit:¬†Though I didn’t want to over-do it with sugars, fruit is a natural source of the sweet stuff so I allowed a little into my plan. Also, fruit is a great snack and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.¬†
  • Various Veggies:The meal plan is predominantly a plant-based diet because these are the foods we need for cleansing/detoxifying the body. The more the merrier!
  • Chocolate:¬†I know what you’re thinking… Chocolate?! Really?! This is definitely not a usual suspect when undertaking a cleanse, but I included it for several reasons. First, like I already said, I don’t believe in depriving or starving oneself when cleaning up the diet. Having a small piece of chocolate at the end of night was a pleasant reward for how hard we were working on eating optimally. Also, dark chocolate contains minerals and antioxidant properties, so the calories are actually quite nutrient-dense. Finally, recent research shows that chocolate is fermented in the gut by our friendly bacteria into usable antioxidants and fiber. Pretty cool, huh?!

Example of Shopping List

Yours doesn’t have to look exactly like this… but try to think lots of fresh. organic, veggies in a variety of different colors and shapes. Don’t just buy broccoli and carrots. Expand your horizons and try a few vegetables you’ve never bought before. Different vegetables have different nutritional profiles, so eating the rainbow is encouraged for maximum nutrient intake.

  • Ginger
  • Green onions
  • Lemons
  • Mushrooms
  • Cilantro
  • Spinach
  • Red pepper
  • Red onion
  • White onion
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Radishes
  • Mixed greens
  • Arugula/bitter greens
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Nori sheets
  • Brown rice
  • Spirulina
  • Flax seeds
  • Canned salmon and sardines with bones (bones=calcium)
  • Miso paste
  • Chickpeas
  • Coconut oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Dulse flakes
  • Cod or other cold water fish
  • Almond milk
  • Hijiki

Strengths of Cleansing Plan

  • Lots of smoothies! I drink them regularly, but not necessarily daily, so it felt great to consume them every morning and notice the extra boost of energy they give me. The alkalizing properties of the veggies offset any excess acidity in the body.
  • Lots of veggies! Actually, that’s pretty much all I ate for the week. There are just way too many reasons why veggies rule to even explain… just eat them. They cleanse, nourish, detoxify, and improve overall health.
  • Lots of bowel movements! Geez, again with the BMs. However, with all the fiber I was consuming, its hardly surprising that this would be the case. If you have any issues with constipation, then this short-term diet is for you! Eating an abundance of vegetables, fruits, and non-glutinous grains is your healthiest and cheapest option in correcting this problem.
  • Some fish! I included three servings of fish for the week because of their lean, easily digestible protein, non-allergenic qualities, and potent anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Just to stress the point: Deprivation wasn’t my intention- eating a variety of the healthiest foods possible and eliminating all the crappy ones sounds more like it.
  • No meat! Though I have a new-found love and appreciation for carnivorous foods, I excluded them from the plan because of their acidic, digestion-challenged nature. I only had five days to really cleanse and detoxify my body, and keeping meat in the equation would hinder these efforts. Giving the digestive tract a little break every now and then is always a good idea. However, small amounts of pastured, organic meats and poultry can be a welcome part of one’s regular diet and is encouraged.
  • No dairy! It’s allergenic, irritating to the GI tract, constipating, acidic, and unnecessary. Not that I don’t eat it… I just consume in moderation and definitely think that complete elimination from the diet is essential during any period of clean eating. Also, Greg is likely lactose intolerant and NEEDS to give his system a break. I suggest that you do the same if you are prone to a dairy allergy or intolerance as well. Sometimes, if you are able to properly and thoroughly repair the gut, then you can eat dairy products on occasion even if they have caused you problems in the past. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed for Greg!
  • My health goals are being realized. I strive to live a positive, energetic, and comfortable life as much as possible and, though I make mistakes and bad decisions just like everyone else, I don’t make it a habit. The point of this cleanse was to inch a little closer to that goal, without killing myself.

Weaknesses of Cleansing Plan

  • The food items should have been more general. For example, there really was no reason to specifically list the vegetables needed for the lentil soup or sauteed veggies in coconut oil. When I was at the grocery store, I took pains to get everything on my list and in the perfect quantity. This was both time consuming and superfluous. Just buy whatever is in season, on sale, and/or tastes good to you, as long as its organic! However, some of the foods are listed for a specific reason, i.e., their detoxifying and antioxidant properties, and should continue to be explicitly stated on the plan.
  • I included way too many liquids. Did I really expect to drink 6+ glasses of water, hot water with lemon in the AM, 3 different types of tea, milk thistle seed extract with water, and apple cider vinegar in water before meals? Oh, and throw in a cup of miso soup or mineral broth and a smoothie while you’re at it. I was literally drinking something all day, every day. And urinating. A LOT. Frankly, it’s just not realistic. In the future I will limit the beverage intake to 1-2 cups of herbal tea/day and allow for less water consumption if broths, soups, and smoothies are on the menu.
  • There was way too much required prep time. Luckily, I had plenty of time at that point to prepare the meals, but someone with a hectic work schedule would definitely find this plan unrealistic to implement. However, making everything for the week on Sunday night is a possibility, as is including leftovers on the next day’s menu.
  • I wouldn’t recommend eating this way for long-term, simply because there is not enough protein. Add in some pastured meat, tempeh, organic chicken, and beans and you’re golden.

Overall, my experience with this cleansing meal plan was generally positive and left me with a greater sense of vitality and energy. There were a few improvements to my health that I noticed:

  • I felt whatever the opposite of bloated means. You know that feeling of “skinniness” you get when you haven’t eaten for awhile? Not that I’m encouraging such behavior, but you know what I mean. Well, that’s how I felt all week, even though I was actually eating quite a lot! This is because I wasn’t consuming allergenic, bloating substances, such as bread and cheese.
  • My energy levels were steady and high all day, every day during the cleanse. I believe this may have been because I wasn’t drinking coffee and, therefore, spiking my cortisol levels. These spikes will lead to an eventual crash and can affect one’s circadian rhythm. Also, eating such healthy foods certainly helped as well.
  • Though the first couple days were kind of rough, things improved each day from there on out. This is a pretty common occurrence when eating such a detoxifying diet because the body is flushing out all the built-up toxins, which is obviously going to feel a little unpleasant. Bear with it and keep in mind the ultimate reward. Sometimes things have to uncomfortable before they’re comfortable.
  • While I experienced gastrointestinal bliss, Greg wasn’t so lucky. I suspect this may have been because of his body’s need to adapt to the new foods he was and wasn’t eating; namely, the increase in veggie intake and elimination of dairy products. Sometimes adding vegetables to the diet in large quantities can initially cause bloating and gas, but this usually subsides after a few days, as it did for Greg. Also, when the body is used to eating an allergenic food, such as cheese, on a regular basis, it builds up a “tolerance” to such foods. When taken out of the diet, the results can initially be uncomfortable, but again, this is usually a short term issue. In addition, after suffering GI damage, it takes the body awhile to repair itself, especially when one is feeding it irritating substances at the same time. Simply eliminating allergenic foods for a few days isn’t necessarily going to fix things immediately. Healing the body may require a long term effort. In Greg’s case, cutting out dairy has been helpful in reducing indigestion symptoms, but hasn’t completely eliminated the issue. This goes to show the complexities of the human body; there isn’t always a simple solution to a problem. Back to the drawing board!

Eating as clean as possible was certainly beneficial and is something I plan on doing every few months now. I’ll just call it… health insurance!

Though I’m back to my normal diet, I still basically try to eat this way… primarily veggies, with small portions of meat and fish 3-4x a week, whole grains, and limited processed foods. The key to living a healthy lifestyle is consistency. I’m not saying you can’t eat the occasional slice of pizza or piece of cake. You just can’t eat it daily. And besides, eating good feels good. Give it a try and see with your own eyes, and healthier body.

Recipes

Coming soon!

When you eat healthy, you can climb mountains, no problem!

When you eat healthy, you can climb mountains, no problem!

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Healthy Food Highlight: Sauerkraut

I never ate sauerkraut growing up as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED hot dogs, but the only condiment I allowed to touch my dog was bright yellow in color. I didn’t even want ketchup joining in the party. Unfortunately, I may have been missing out on some key digestive juices (literally).

This is a prime example of the importance of choosing quality over quantity. A tub of Vlassic sauerkraut isn’t the same as the homemade variety. Unless you put polysorbate 80 and sodium metabisulfite in your food of course, like Vlassic does. Plus, it’s more expensive and its been pasteurized, destroying all the valuable enzymes in the process. So, make your own. It’s cheap, easy, and kinda fun!

Sauerkraut starts out as cabbage and is transformed into the pungent probiotic through the fermentation process. The friendly bacteria that are created during this process aid in digestion, increase vitamin levels, produce a variety of beneficial enzymes, and promote the growth of healthy flora in the digestive tract. Basically, if you want solid digestion, eat homemade sauerkraut on the regular.

In addition to its wonderful gut-healing properties, sauerkraut is also a good source of vitamin C (as long as its not pasteurized; vitamin C is destroyed by heat) and may even contain cancer-fighting, immune system-boosting compounds.

If that’s not enough, raw cabbage juice (NOT sauerkraut) has been shown to be an effective treatment for peptic ulcers. Drinking this juice daily can clear up an ulcer in under two weeks!

Making Sauerkraut makes roughly a quart

  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 2 Tbs. sea salt

Directions

  1.  Shred the cabbage and place in a large bowl or pot. Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage.
  2. Crush the mixture with your hands until the liquid comes freely out of the cabbage.
  3. Place a plate on top of the cabbage, then a weight on top of the plate. I use a mason jar filled with water.
  4. Cover the bowl with a cloth towel and leave out, unrefrigerated, on your kitchen counter. Check after 2 days and scoop off any scum that may develop, repack and check again every 3 days.
  5. The sauerkraut should be freshly fermented and ready to go in about 2 weeks, with its flavors maturing as it ages. Like wine, another one of my favorite things.
  6. Put sauerkraut, with its juices, in an air-tight container in refrigerator. It will keep for up to 6 months.
This is what it should look like during the fermentation process

This is what it should look like during the fermentation process

Now doesn’t that sound ridiculously easy?! There really are few things easier. If you decide to try it out, please comment in the box below and let me know how it went!

Additional Ingredient Suggestions

Follow the above recipe, then add with the salt:

  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic and a sliced onion
  • 1-2 sliced poblano peppers
  • 5 chopped Brussels sprouts
  • Handful of seaweed or any other vegetable

I like to take bites straight from the container, 5-10 minutes before a meal, in order to get my digestive juices flowing, so to speak. Of course, you can eat it with sausages and in reuben sandwiches, but cooking it will destroy the enzymes you worked so hard to create/ferment. The point is, use your probiotic-loaded kraut in a variety of ways- eaten cold for its nutritional status and eaten warm for its ideal accompaniment to certain dishes.

Vegetable and Quinoa Noodle Soup

This is a great recipe for those that are on an allergen-free diet or are just fiending for a simple, nutrient-rich, cleansing soup. It’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, and it’s damn good!

Ingredients serves 6-8

  • 1/2 box of quinoa pasta (I like Ancient Harvest)- brown rice pasta works well too
  • 8 cups mineral broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced (allow to sit for 10 minutes after mincing in order for its health promoting properties to be released)
  • 4-5 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, roughly chopped
  • 3 handfuls of spinach
  • 1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 T fresh thyme or rosemary, sprig for garnish
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 T dulse flakes
  • 2-3 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T turmeric
  • 1 t cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1.  Heat the broth and water on medium-high heat in a large pot. Once slowly boiling, add garlic, onion, carrots, broccoli, and bay leaves and reduce heat to medium-low. Add a few pinches of salt and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  2. While soup is simmering, cook the quinoa pasta until it is ALMOST done, but still a little crunchy. Once you add it to the soup, it will continue to cook.
  3. After about 10 minutes, add the zucchini, kale, celery, thyme or rosemary, cayenne and black pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Throw the quinoa noodles into the pot, along with the spinach and green onions. Cook 5 more minutes.
  5. Take the soup off the heat and add the dulse flakes, nutritional yeast, and turmeric right before serving. I advise waiting to add these ingredients until the end so to retain their nutritional content. Applying heat can be damaging to the nutritional compounds contained in these foods/spices.

Top with a sprig of rosemary or thyme and enjoy!

Tip: This soup heats up well the next day, so save any leftovers for lunch. That’s one less thing you have to worry about in the morning!

Recipe Ideas for Candidiasis

Candida overgrowth is no fun for anyone. This opportunistic one-celled, fungi-like organism is responsible for a host of frustrating and seemingly unrelated symptoms that, over time, gradually weaken the immune system and negatively affect liver function. It can be caused by several factors, including stress, antibiotic use, and/or a high-sugar and carbohydrate diet.

Some common symptoms of candidiasis include:

  • Fatigue and the experience of “feeling sick all over”
  • Brain fog- feeling easily overwhelmed by tasks
  • Intense sugar cravings
  • Bloated abdomen or abdominal pain
  • Yeast infections/ anal or vaginal itching
  • Rashes
  • Oral thrush
  • Fungus on finger and/or toenails
  • Indigestion

Addressing Candidiasis

  1. Eat a no-sugar diet with minimal carbohydrates. This includes fruit as well. Instead, eat a balanced diet rich in pastured meats, chicken, and eggs, seeds, nuts, healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, butter) and LOTS of non-starchy vegetables.
  2. Take probiotics or eat PLAIN, whole milk yogurt. These beneficial bacteria will take the place of the candida bacteria and contribute to an overall healthier digestive system.
  3. Take HCl supplements to increase stomach acid production and, therefore, the absorption of nutrients and the digestive capacity of the body.
  4. Address psychological issues that may be exacerbating the cravings for sugar and excessive carbohydrates.
  5. Support the liver and immune system.
  6. Here are some antimicrobial formulas that could be effective: Candex (Pure Essence Labs), CDX (Theramedix), Colon Guard (Pharmax), and Candaclear Four

Foods to Eat

  • Non-starchy vegetables: avocado, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, kale, onions, rutabaga, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini
  • Cultured food: plain yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, miso, natto
  • Organic meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices
  • Non-glutinous grains in moderation: buckwheat, millet, quinoa
  • Oils: coconut, olive, flax, sesame
  • Herbal teas, stevia

Foods to Avoid

  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, cooked carrots, beets, yams, parsnips, turnips
  • Fruit, sugar, wine, beer, caffeine
  • All dairy products except plain yogurt and kefir. Because of their cultured nature, they may be properly digested due to their low amounts of lactose.
  • Beans, legumes, soy, tofu, mushrooms, pork
  • Glutinous grains, rice, and corn: barley, rye, wheat, spelt, oats (not glutinous, but can be contaminated during production. Eat at own risk).
  • All vinegar EXCEPT apple cider vinegar, which may be beneficial in battling candida overgrowth.
  • All processed food and rancid oils.

Recipe Ideas

 Breakfast:

  • Green smoothies with ginger: celery, cucumber, spinach, spirulina, protein powder, flaxseeds, ginger, lemon
  • Eggs over saut√©ed veggies and avocado
  • Plain, whole milk yogurt or kefir w/ nuts, seeds, cinnamon
  • Soup- leftovers, chicken vegetable, broccoli¬†(minus the potato), lamb and/or vegetable curry, beef vegetable, asparagus, cauliflower, etc.
  • Buckwheat cereal cooked in almond milk w/ nuts, seeds, cinnamon
  • Almond butter (with no added sugar) on quinoa or flax crackers
  • Piece of turkey sausage w/ saut√©ed spinach and garlic
  • Saut√©ed veggies in coconut oil + fresh juice (ginger, kale, celery, cucumber, carrot)
  • Buckwheat granola: coconut flakes and oil, chia seeds, cinnamon, stevia. Eat w/ unsweetened almond milk or plain yogurt
  • Almond butter w/ celery, bell peppers, cucumbers
  • Gluten-free waffles¬†w/ cinnamon and organic, pastured butter
  • Piece of turkey sausage, eggs, and a side salad

Lunch and Dinner:

  • Sardine or salmon salad w/ lots of raw veggies
  • Grilled chicken salad w/ cilantro dressing
  • Quinoa and roasted red pepper salad w/arugula
  • Soup- see above
  • Coconut chicken curry
  • Grilled chicken or steak w/ steamed or saut√©ed asparagus, zucchini, and summer squash
  • Seaweed salad w/ miso dressing
  • Soup w/ soba (buckwheat) noodles
  • Baked cod or salmon w/ saut√©ed spinach and garlic
  • Curry dish- choice of meat (other than pork)
  • Tabbouleh
  • Mediterranean sardine salad w/avocado¬†(substitute the balsamic for extra virgin olive oil and hold the feta cheese)
  • Raw veggie and quinoa bowl w/basil
  • Veggie and quinoa noodle soup
  • Pho soup w/ a bone broth base and bok choy and broccoli
  • Cabbage rolls
  • Pesto quinoa pasta w/ asparagus, kale, and Brussels sprouts
  • Grilled veggie salad w/ dijon mustard dressing

Coconut Chicken Curry

I’ve always been pretty hard on myself when it comes to making a tasty, flavorful curry dish. Either it comes out too bland or too spicy, yet still bland. BOOOOOOOO. Well, I think I’ve finally figured out the secret: LOTS of curry powder. This seems pretty obvious, but I’ve discovered that most recipes don’t call for nearly enough. So, when in doubt, add a good tablespoon more than you think is necessary… and taste frequently until desired spiciness and flavor.

Ingredients: serves 3-4

  • 4 T coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 5 stalks cilantro (or to taste)
  • 3 T curry powder
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • Chunk of fresh ginger to taste
  • 1 T dulse flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon¬†Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 T coconut oil¬†(plus 2 more for browning)
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes
  • 1 lb. cubed organic chicken
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts ‚ąí drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups green and red bell pepper
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 cup zucchini

Directions:

In a food processor or blender, process the coconut milk, water, yogurt, cilantro, dulse, curry, garlic, ginger, salt, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, water, and coconut flakes until smooth. Set aside.

In a hot pan, add remaining oil and chicken and brown. Add the broccoli, water chestnuts, onions, peppers, and zucchini along with the curry sauce to the meat and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with brown rice or a la carte and enjoy!

Healthy Food Highlight: Brussels Sprouts

Like a lot of kids, I hated Brussels sprouts growing up. I actually enjoyed most vegetables from a young age, but sprouts never did it for me. They were just so big, hard, and bland tasting. That’s what she said. Fast forward to the present day- I now consider them one of my favorite foods! However, if you are in agreement with Young Rachel, then listen up- The trick to acquiring a taste for them is to incorporate them into tasty and creative recipes, instead of just steaming them and calling it a side dish. I’ll give a few of my own recipe ideas shortly, but first let’s take a look at WHY we should eat Brussels sprouts.

History

Brussels sprouts get their name from the first town in which they were mentioned, Brussels, Belgium, in the late 1500s. Their cultivation and use spread across Europe during WWI, though Thomas Jefferson introduced them to North America in 1812. They are now cultivated throughout both the United States and Europe, with almost all Brussels sprouts grown in this country coming from good ole’ California!

Description and Nutritional Profile

Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica family and evolved from the wild cabbage, which would explain their similar features. They grow underground in bunches, growing to as high as three feet tall. You can even purchase them still attached to their stalk from some grocery stores.

In terms of their nutrient profile, these little nuggets pack quite a punch! They are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, folic acid, and vitamin B6. They are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and choline. In addition, they contain a plethora of cancer-fighting compounds, called glucosinolates. As you might expect, they are also low calorie, with 1 cup of cooked sprouts containing only 56 calories. A serving size is a 1/2 cup; eat 1-3 servings/day of Brussels sprouts and other vegetables from the cruciferous (crunchy veggie) group for general health maintenance. This really isn’t much at all- stop making excuses and just eat them! Your body will thank you.

Health Benefits

As a result of Brussels sprouts high nutritional value, they offer numerous benefits to the body. First, they provide detoxification support courtesy of their glucosinolate and sulfuric compounds. Also, they are a meaningful dietary source of vitamin and phytonutrient antioxidants, with evidence suggesting that the DNA in our cells is protected by these naturally occurring substances.  This is super important because environmental toxins can negatively alter our DNA, but these compounds protect against such unwanted changes. In addition, they prevent oxidative stress in the body, which is increasingly being viewed as a risk factor for developing cancer.

Speaking of conditions that increase the chance of getting cancer, inflammation is also now seen as a major risk factor for cancer and various other degenerative diseases. Brussels sprouts help us avoid this problem through their beneficial nutrients. Those special glucosinolates, as well as their vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acid content, are responsible for preventing inflammation before it starts. There is evidence to suggest that they provide cardiovascular support as well.

Brussels sprouts can even help with digestion. Is there anything they can’t do?! This is because of their high fiber content. Did you know that you can get half of your daily fiber needs from only 200 calories of Brussels sprouts? I didn’t either, but it’s pretty cool. Also, they contain another compound, called sulforaphane, that helps prevent bacterial overgrowth in the stomach.

Concerns

Due to the goitrogenic properties that Brussels sprouts contain, they should be eaten sparingly by those that have low thyroid function. This is because these compounds can negatively affect thyroid production, but have no fear- individuals with healthy thyroids don’t need to worry about this dilemma. All cruciferous veggies, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower, contain these compounds, so they will all have to be reduced in the diet for affected persons. ¬†If you have such an issue, limit your intake to 2-3 servings/week and cook them. This releases some of the goitrogens.

How to Select, Store, and Prepare

When purchasing, look for Brussels sprouts that are firm, green, and similarly sized. This will assure that they all cook evenly. Their peak growing season is fall to early spring, so try to eat them during these months. Keep them unwashed and untrimmed in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will keep for about 3-4 days uncooked, and another 3-4 days after being cooked.

Though many people simply cook them whole, I find that they cook quicker and taste better when sliced in half, or even quartered. Also, cutting an “X” into the bottom of the stem can help them cook more evenly as well. I like to lightly saute them in butter for about 10 minutes, but steaming them and drizzling some olive oil over them works well too.

Recipe Ideas

  1. Saute the sprouts with an assortment of other vegetables in a tamari/maple syrup blend. Add marinated tempeh or chicken for protein.
  2. Roast them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in a small amount of water. Drizzle olive oil over them when done. Add pecans or walnuts if desired.
  3. Steam and allow them to chill overnight. Serve on top of salad greens for lunch the next day.
  4. Saute the sprouts with bacon and raisins for some sweet and savory goodness!
  5. Add them to any rice, pasta, or potato dish for a tasty nutrient boost.

Basically, I just add Brussels sprouts to whatever I’m cooking for the night, or use them as a side dish when I’m cooking a cut of meat. They go good with everything, so experiment for yourself and see what tastes good to you!