Day 7 Kick Start 2-22 Plant Based Challenge
Welcome to Day 7, we are halfway through the 2-week challenge.
So far, we’ve looked at the benefits of increasing our intake of water and healthy, plant-based, whole foods. One thing to remember is that if you’re used to highly processed foods with lots of sugar, salt, oils, meat, and dairy, it might take your taste buds a couple of weeks to adjust to the more subtle flavours of clean foods. Luckily, there’s a trick to speeding up that process, which is what today’s blog is all about.
Today’s topic is sauces and spices and how they ramp up the flavour of your meals. The goal, very simply, is to increase the pleasure you experience from your food the healthy way!
Sauces are a wonderful way to add flavour and nourishment to every bite. Put them on salads, steamed veggies, whole grains, and legumes, or add a dollop to soups and casseroles to kick the flavour up a notch.
With sauces, you can transform a single ingredient (or a sophisticated dish) into a flavour-packed, meal. Not all sauces are healthy. Ingredients always matter. Many store-bought, pre-made sauces and dressings are high in sugar and sodium (and based around oil).
Healthy Fats and Binders
The good news, however, is that there are healthier whole food fats and binders that are easy and delicious to use. Compared to processed oils and animal fats, the best whole foods, plant-based fats contain lower amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, which help build a healthier cardiovascular system, respiratory system, immune system, and endocrine system. Even if some are also high-calorie, these whole foods, plant-based fats are way more nutritious than processed oils.
So what are these healthy fats and binders?
Nuts and nut butters (cashew, almond, and peanut are the most common), seeds and seed butters (like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and sesame tahini), pureed organic tofu, avocados, coconut manna or milk, and the wonderful world of plant-based yogurts. Even beans can add body and creaminess to your saucy creations. As an added bonus (as we saw a couple of days ago), beans add lots of fibre and protein, too.
Herbs, Spices, and Fats.
There’s more to flavour than salt, sugar, and fat. Herbs and spices add more variety for your taste buds and allow you to explore diverse cuisines and cultures through your spice rack. Many spices add more than just flavour, too. They also contain powerful substances that may help fight cancer and heart disease, reduce inflammation, strengthen your immune system, stabilize your blood sugar, and even fend off dementia! Some of the most potent and health-boosting herbs and spices are turmeric, garlic, ginger, hot peppers, and cinnamon (just to name a few). And, as luck would have it, pairing spices with plant-based fats helps to deliver these powerful health-promoting compounds right into your cells!
Some sauces can be whipped up by hand, but when using whole foods like nuts, seeds, or avocados, a blender or food processor can really come in handy. Simply add the ingredients and hit the button. These kitchen tools also make it easier to whip up larger batches for use across multiple meals or to freeze as individual portions for future use. Ice cube trays come in handy here. After freezing “sauce cubes,” you can remove them from the tray and store them in a freezer-safe container.
Spices can add fabulous flavour.
But new research is telling us that healthy spices can also fight Alzheimer’s, inflammation, cancer, migraine headaches, stomach problems, and type 2 diabetes.
Every culture is defined, in part, by the spices used in its cuisine.
In India, there’s cardamom and cumin. In Italy, there’s basil and oregano. In Mexico, there’s chili, garlic, and cilantro. In Thailand, there’s lemongrass, sweet basil, and galangal. And in North America, there’s a bit of everything in the culinary melting pot.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live in Thailand to enjoy kaffir lime leaves. Or in Mexico to partake of green chilies.
Herbs and spices travel the globe. And they don’t just bring wonderful, mouth-watering bursts of flavour. They also bring stunning levels of nutrition.
Cooking with herbs and spices is an art form. Knowing which ones are especially good for you is science.
Learning about and using the following healthy spices can make a world of difference in your kitchen — and for your health.
5 Healthy Seasonings to Add Incredible Flavour and Health Benefits to Your Food
Turmeric is a flavourful addition to sauces, curries, stir-fries, and casseroles.
Popular in India for more than 5,000 years, it’s widely thought to be one of the primary reasons that country has one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric is known for its bright orange colour. In fact, it’s sometimes used as a colouring agent. The orange comes from a polyphenol called curcumin, which is something of a miracle compound.
Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that curcumin may help prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, reduce unhealthy levels of inflammation, protect against heavy metal toxicity, and even lower heart disease risk.
The average daily intake of curcumin in India is thought to be about 125 mg — the amount found in about a half-teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Research has found low rates of certain types of cancer in countries where people eat 100 to 200 mg of curcumin per day over long periods of time.
If a half-teaspoon of turmeric seems like a lot, you might consider a curcumin supplement.
And one more tip: You’ll get better curcumin absorption if you combine turmeric with some black pepper and/or a bit of (healthy) fat.
Garlic can be chopped, minced, blended, or eaten as a powder. It’s delicious in pasta sauces, soups, and almost any savory dish.
Garlic is known for helping to ward off the bad guys. But instead of hanging it over your doorway to scare away vampires, you can eat it to fight off certain cancers.
Researchers studied 41,387 Iowa women, tracking their consumption of 127 foods over five years.
The food found to be most highly associated with a statistically significant decrease in colon cancer was garlic. Women with the highest amounts of garlic in their diets had a 50% lower risk of certain colon cancers than women who ate the least.
Another study of 5,000 men and women, conducted in China over five years, found that a garlic extract was linked to a 52% reduction in stomach cancer rates, compared to a placebo.
Garlic has been rumoured to help fight colds and flu.
A team of researchers studied 146 participants, giving half of them a garlic tablet and half a placebo tablet, every day for three months.
The people who took the placebo reported cumulatively catching 65 colds. The people who took the garlic reported only 24. And for those garlic-takers who did catch a cold, the symptoms ended 20% sooner.
Ginger is one of my favourite spices. It has a refreshing, clean, invigorating flavour. I love it in soups, stir-fries, casseroles, salad dressings, smoothies, stews, and desserts.
If you like, you can mix ginger powder or ginger tea with sparkling water and stevia for a healthy, homemade ginger ale.
Ginger can be used to treat stomach problems, including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite.
It has potent anti-inflammatory properties. And some people find it very useful in relieving pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and menstrual cramps.
As if all that weren’t enough, ginger has also been found to be extraordinarily effective in the treatment of migraines.
If you’ve ever suffered from a migraine, you know that it’s way more than a headache. Migraines make normal activities impossible for an estimated one billion people worldwide. And migraines are responsible for billions of dollars in health care costs.
But could a natural remedy like ginger really work as well as drugs, with fewer side effects?
In 2014, a double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial was published in Phytotherapy Research. Researchers studied 100 people experiencing moderate to severe pain from migraines.
Half the study participants were given one-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger, and half were given a standard dose of sumatriptan, also known as Imitrex — one of the top-selling, billion-dollar drugs in the treatment of migraines.
Most participants started out with moderate or severe pain. After taking either the drug or ginger, they were either in mild pain or completely pain-free. The same proportion of migraine sufferers reported satisfaction with the results, whether they took sumatriptan or ginger.
But with ginger, there were substantially fewer negative side effects. With sumatriptan, some people reported dizziness, a sedative effect, vertigo, and heartburn. The only adverse side effect for ginger was that two of the ginger-taking participants reported an upset stomach.
If you want to try the natural migraine remedy, mix 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger in water at the first sign of a migraine. Drink it, and see if your headache lessens or goes away within half an hour.
Compared to sumatriptan, ginger not only spares you the side effects — but it also comes at about 1/3,000th the price. And it just might do the job.
Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices in the world. It’s made from the inner bark of a genus of a tree called Cinnamomum.
When strips of it dry, they curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. The sticks can also be ground to form a powder. This mild-mannered, delectable spice can flavour drinks, baked goods, oatmeal, stir-fries, and dishes both savory and sweet.
For thousands of years, cinnamon has also been prized for its potent medicinal properties. It’s loaded with polyphenols and other antioxidants.
Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering, and cardiovascular-disease-lowering superstar.
5) Hot Peppers
Hot peppers look a lot like bell peppers, but with one major difference. They contain a compound known as capsaicin, which is colourless and odorless — but definitely not flavourless!
Capsaicin is so intensely spicy that many people can tolerate hot peppers only in small amounts. The capsaicin that brings peppers their heat is also a powerful medicine.
Chili peppers aid digestion by promoting salivation, boosting the stomach’s defense against infections, increasing digestive fluid production, and helping to deliver enzymes to the stomach.
In a study, 16,179 human participants were tracked for an average of more than 15 years. After factoring out demographic, lifestyle, and clinical characteristics, the people who consumed hot peppers had a 13% lower rate of mortality throughout the study.
There are many varieties of hot peppers, and their level of capsaicin ranges from mild to intense. Some people love the spiciness, but others, especially children, may not. Here’s a tip: Instead of mixing hot peppers into a whole dish, you can arrange them on top or serve them separately.
Research by the Food Revolution Network