Cinco de Mayo, A Few Days Late

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  Though this battle was not a major strategic win, the win at Puebla was a symbolic victory and strengthened the resistance against France, who ultimately withdrew 5 years later.  Though it’s a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has evolved in the US to be a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.  For me, the celebration of Mexican culture and heritage isn’t complete without celebrating the underappreciated black bean.

Before we go into the benefits of beans, though, I refer to Dr. Michael Greger’s informative and entertaining article to clear the air about beans and gas.  Dr. Greger uses data from a famed flatologist and even NASA to explain the normal incidence of intestinal gas, the main sources of gas, and strategies for reducing gas.

Despite this information, if you still feel that beans do not work well with your digestive system, start with small servings and smaller beans (lentils, black beans, black-eyed peas), believed to be easier to digest.  Gradually increase your serving size over a few weeks and work your way up to larger beans (pinto, kidney, fava).  Also, drain and rinse canned beans really well.  If cooking dried beans, first soak the beans for 8-12 h in cold water, changing the water a couple of times if possible.  While cooking the beans, change the cooking water once or twice to further reduce gassiness.

Beans are a fiber superstar with 7 grams per ½ c serving.  Fiber, or plant roughage, has a critical role in ridding our bodies of toxins, cholesterol, medications, and excess hormones.  As it filters the blood, the liver removes these undesirable chemicals, which are then sent to the bile duct and to the intestinal tract.  It is in the intestinal tract that fiber soaks up the undesirable chemicals and carries them out as waste.  However, if there’s no fiber circulating in the bloodstream, the undesirables end up being reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and the whole process starts over again as enterohepatic circulation.  Without regular fiber in one’s diet, enterohepatic circulation keeps hormones, toxins, and cholesterol circulating for longer than they should.Barnard and Reilly

If the idea of toxins and excess hormones hitting their targets over and over isn’t enough to increase your daily fiber intake, T. Colin Campbell’s findings from The China Study provide evidence that high fiber intake was consistently associated with lower rates of rectum and colon cancers.Campbell and Campbell

The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine influences advancements in medicine StrikeOut_PCRM  and science and advocates for preventative medicine, especially good nutrition, in the form of a whole food, plant-based diet.  PCRM gained attention last summer by informing fans at Major League Baseball’s All Star game in Kansas City that hot dogs can strike you out
for good, referring to the link between consumption of processed meats and increased risk of colorectal cancer.EPIC                                                                                     Buns_PCRM

So save your buns by increasing your daily consumption of both soluble and insoluble
fiber.  The most fiber rich foods are beans and vegetables, followed by fruits and whole
grains. Soluble fiber dissolves in water (example, oatmeal) and is known for its ability to 
control cholesterol levels.  Insoluble fiber is found in vegetables, fruit, wheat, rice, and other grains.  Both types of fiber are needed for prevention of cancer, and if you’re diet is rich in beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, then you’ll get plenty of each type –  realizing that the average American only gets 10-15 grams of fiber per day, compared with the ideal of 40 g/d.

This week’s recipes highlight the black bean.  If you’re using dried beans, make a big batch and freeze what you won’t eat this week to use in recipes over the next few weeks.

 

Taco Salad

Greens, torn into bite-sized piecesTaco_Salad

(Not only can you get a lot more greens in a small area if they’re in small pieces, but it’s also much easier to eat a salad if you don’t have to bother with cutting everything up first- really helpful in encouraging kids to eat more greens.)

Top with: black beans, diced tomato, diced avocado, peppers, organic corn (fresh or frozen, raw or briefly cooked), etc

Go naked or dress with: salsa or avocado dressing (1 avocado pureed with ¼ c orange or lime juice plus garlic powder or mustard if it is too sweet)

 

Oven Baked Tortilla Chips

Whole wheat tortillas

Spray EVOO

Salt

For chips, cut the tortillas in half (2 at a time), then cut into triangles.  Arrange on a lightly EVOO sprayed baking sheet.  Spray the tortillas with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.

For scoops, cut the tortillas in half (2 at a time), then cut more like 2”x2” squares.  Spray the cut tortillas with EVOO and place each tortilla oil side down into a mini muffin pan.  Spray the tortillas with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.

For salad shells, take each tortilla and drap over a small oven proof casserole dish or bowl, gently pushing the sides down to form an inverted bowl.  Spray with EVOO.

Bake at 350’ for 5 min then watch carefully for edges to brown.  The chips/scoops/salad shells are done when lightly browned and firm.  They will crisp up more as they cool.

To kick it up a notch, sprinkle with lime juice or seasonings, or use flavored tortillas.  Lime habanera tortillas were used in the taco salad above- delish!

 

Easy Black Bean Dip

1 can (1.5c) black beans, rinsed well

½ c fresh salsa, drained

In a blender or food processor, puree the beans and salsa.  Add liquid from the salsa if needed to thin consistency.

Add-ins: cumin, garlic, jalapeno, habanera, etc.

 

Black Bean Mango Salsa

2 cans of black beans (or 3c), rinsed well

2-3 mangoes, diced

Juice from 1 lime

½ t salt or to taste

Cilantro, optional

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Ideally refrigerate 12 to 24h before serving for flavors to develop.  Adjust lime, salt, and cilantro to taste before serving and add any of the suggested add-ins if desired.

Add-ins: diced pineapple, avocado, or tomatoes

 

References

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

http://NutritionFacts.org

Campbell TC, Campbell TM. The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. 2006

http://www.pcrm.org/media/online/aug2012/hot-dog-eaters-save-your-buns

European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study http://epic.iarc.fr/

 

Spring Cleaning

If warmer weather has roused your desire to spring clean or declutter, turn some of that energy to your diet.  Not needing to be warmed by food as the temperature increases, I find it easier in spring and summer to increase my consumption of raw veggies and salads.  My favorite approach is to focus on what I should be eating instead of what I should not be eating.  It turns out that this is one of the recommended approaches in Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct.  The ability to turn your “I won’t” into an “I will” diverts your focus from prohibiting your bad habit by replacing it with a new, healthier habit.

Joel Fuhrman must have been aware of this strategy when he issued his holiday challenge for 2012, encouraging participants to each day eat:

  • At least one large salad
  • Generous amounts of cooked green vegetables, beans, onions, and mushrooms
  • At least 3 fresh fruits, especially berries, to satisfy your sweet tooth
  • 1-2 ounces of raw nuts and seeds

For me, this checklist mentality works well as a reminder of what foods to focus on and is also helpful as a meal and snack planner.  Don’t know what to shop for?  Look at the list and fill your fridge and pantry with Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds), an acronym to remember the most nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods.  We’ll focus on the G for greens today, and more specifically on kale.

Back to the checklist mentality for a second – if I’ve hit the ‘required’ foods and am still hungry, I can incorporate something less desirable.  When I haven’t eaten through the checklist, I try to plan better for the next day- all the while my taste buds have adjusted to another day without white flour, sugars and sweeteners, excess oil, and animal products.

Kale is quite the sexy health food, having gained popularity recently as a super food.  In each 1 cup cooked serving, kale contains 111 mg absorbable calcium, which is equivalent to that in 1 cup of calcium-fortified orange juice and more than the absorbable calcium contained in 1 cup of milk.  Kale also contains significant amounts of beta-carotene, Kaleselenium, and vitamins C and E.  In addition to being an outstanding antioxidant, kale is part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens.  People who eat generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables have remarkably low cancer rates.Barnard and Reilly

Cruciferous vegetables affect the hormones that influence the progression of hormone-dependent cancers by changing the way estrogens are broken down and eliminated.  Normally, estradiol (a potent estrogen in women) is converted to 16 α-hydroxyestrone, a hormone that encourages the growth of cancer cells.  However the cruciferous extract indole-3-carbinol causes the body to convert more estrogen to a different estrogen called 2-hydroxyestrone, which has anticancer actions.Bell et al

Two common types of kale that you should be able to find at your farmers’ market or grocery store are lacinato or dino kale, which has flat firmer leaves, and curly kale.  Most kale recipes can be used with either type, I usually choose based on availability and desired texture.  To strip or destem the kale, hold a leaf by the stem upside down in your hand.  Cup the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand at the top of the stem and pull downward in a quick, smooth motion.

 

Monster Green Smoothie

½ c pineapple chunks, frozen

1 c seedless grapes or sliced apple

1 banana, sliced and frozen

2-4 leaves of destemmed kale, depending on size

1 c water

Blend all ingredients together, adding more water if needed to thin consistency.  Serve immediately.  Makes 2 one cup servings.

This is a very sweet smoothie, which is great for green smoothie novices.  Spinach has a more neutral taste and can be substituted for the kale.  This recipe is very versatile and should be played with to find your favorite combinations, eventually increasing the ratio of greens to fruit.

Kale Chips

Once kale has been washed, dried, and destemmed, tear the leaves into chip-sized pieces.

Oven:  Preheat oven to 300’.  Arrange kale on wire rack in a baking sheet, on parchment paper, or directly on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.  Spray the kale with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 15-20 min, turning the chips over once, until the chips are crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool as the chips will continue to crisp.

Dehydrator:  Arrange kale on trays.  Spray the leaves with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.  Dehydrate at 145’ for 2-3 hours, rotating the trays at least once and turning the chips over if necessary, until chips are crispy.

There are many variations of kale chips, so like the smoothie recipe, this one is very versatile.  Add in ideas: nutritional yeast, BBQ seasoning, chipotle, oil and vinegar, garlic, chili and lime.

 

Massaged Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, destemmed and torn into pieces

1 lemon, juiced

1 can of beans, rinsed and drained (white beans or garbanzos recommended)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 avocado, diced

1 tomato, diced

Salt to taste

In a medium bowl, add half of the lemon juice to the kale and massage it with your hands until the kale has reduced in size by half.  Add rest of ingredients.  Can be eaten immediately or refrigerated to allow flavors to further develop.

 

Sauteed Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts

1 bunch kale, destemmed and torn into bite sized pieces

1 can of white beans or garbanzos

¼ c pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c golden raisins

1T olive oil

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat with pine nuts and garlic.  As they begin to brown, add kale and raisins, stirring often.  Once kale has wilted (5 min or so), add beans.  If additional liquid is needed, add ¼ c water or dry white wine.  Once kale is desired texture, remove from heat and serve.

 

References

McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct : How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. 2012

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, Bradlow HL, et al. Placebo-controlled trial of indole-3-carbinol in the treatment of CIN.  Gynecol Oncol. 2000; 78:123-129.

Kale Picture: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Boerenkool.jpg