Recipe: Pumpkin, ginger & lemongrass soup

I love soup and pumpkin soup has been among my favourites forever. Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Its sweetness, accentuated by roasting it instead of just boiling it, pairs well with the zing of ginger, lemongrass and lime juice.

This recipe is gluten-free and can be made vegan/vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the fish sauce. It’s low in fat (if you don’t add the optional coconut milk) and protein. You can add some cooked chicken or boiled eggs to bump up the protein content.

Pumpkin, ginger & lemongrass soup

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3-cm piece of ginger
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 4 coriander stalks
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 lime

To serve

  • coriander leaves
  • fresh chilli (optional)
  • splash of coconut milk (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced).
  2. Peel, seed and cube pumpkin. Place on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes.
  3. While the pumpkin cooks, chop onion, ginger, lemongrass and coriander stalks.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a pot at low temperature. Add the onion, ginger, lemongrass and coriander stalks and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  5. When pumpkin is ready, place in a blender or food processor along with the aromatics, broth, fish sauce and lime juice.
  6. Process to desired consistency, adding more broth or water if desired. Adjust seasoning and serve garnished with coriander leaves and sliced chilli. Add a splash of coconut milk if you wish.

fruit and vegetable intake

Fruit and vegetable intake: Guidelines vs reality

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend an average minimum daily intake of 5 serves of vegetables (including legumes) and 2 serves of fruit to prevent chronic disease.

Nutrients in fruits and vegetables

Most fruits, vegetables and legumes are good source of carbohydrate (sugar and/or starch) and fibre. They also water and contain micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Most are low in fat with few exceptions (olives, avocados, coconuts).

Legumes are a decent source of protein and some contain non-haem iron, which is less bioavailable than haem iron from animal sources. Legumes also contain phytates which act as antioxidants but bind to minerals, affecting their absorption. Cooking and storing methods can affect the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables, but that’s another topic for another time.

Why do we need fruits and vegetables?

Most healthy and long-living populations around the world have something in common a diet based on fresh vegetables and fruits. The pharmaceutical industry has tried to isolate individual nutrients and pack them into pills, but it is clear that the biggest benefits come from eating whole foods. It has been postulated that some positive health effects are due to hormesis (favourable response to a low dose of an otherwise harmful compound).

There is evidence that vegetable consumption decreases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Vegetables may also prevent weight gain and decrease risk of various cancers. The consumption of legumes is associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer, and, in the case of soy, reduced total and LDL-cholesterol (1).

Consuming fruits may also decrease risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Fruit intake is also associated with a reduced risk of obesity, weight gain and oral and nasopharyngeal cancer (1).

What is the recommended fruit and vegetable intake?

The number of serves per day recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines (1) vary according to gender, age and life stage.

Recommended number of serves per day
Age (years) Vegetables and legume/beans Fruit
Boys 2–3 2 ½ 1
4–8 4 ½ 1 ½
9–11 5 2
12–13 5 ½ 2
14–18 5 ½ 2
Men 19–50 6 2
51–70 5 ½ 2
70+ 5 2
Girls 2–3 2 ½ 1
4–8 4 ½ 1 ½
9–11 5 2
12–13 5 2
14–18 5 2
Pregnant (up to 18 years) 5 2
Breastfeeding (up to 18 years) 5 ½ 2
Women 19–50 5 2
51–70 5 2
70+ 5 2
Pregnant (19–50 years) 5 2
Breastfeeding (19–50 years) 7 ½ 2

What is a serve?

Below is the definition of a serve of vegetables/fruit according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines (1). My philosophy is: when in doubt, eat more vegetables.

Vegetables

One serve = 75g, e.g.

  • ½ cup of cooked vegetables or legumes
  • 1 cup of raw vegetables
  • ½ medium potato or equivalent of sweet potato, taro, sweet corn or cassava
  • 1 medium tomato

Fruit

One serve = 150g, e.g.

  • 1 apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 apricots, kiwis or plums
  • 1 cup diced fruit, berries, grapes, etc.

Note that the type of vegetables and fruits that you should eat depend on your individual carbohydrate tolerance, goals and health conditions.

How many people are eating the recommended amount?

The short answer is: very few. According to the latest National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15 (2, 3), most Australians do not meet the guidelines. Below are the percentages of people who did meet their target fruit and vegetable intake:

Vegetables

  • 7% of adults (3.8% males, 10.2% females)
  • 5.4% of children (4.3% males, 6.3% females)

Fruit

  • 49.8% of adults (44.0% males, 55.4% females)
  • 68.1% of children (65.0% males, 71.8% females)

The age groups less likely to meet vegetable and fruit intake are children 12-18 and adults 18-24 years old. Conversely, males 75+ years old, females 65-74 years old and children 2-3 years old were the population groups whose intake were closer to their target.

The following graphs show the proportion of adults having X number of serves of vegetables/fruit per day (data from 2).

The following graphs show the proportion of children having X number of serves of vegetables/fruit per day (data from 3).

Recommendations

  • Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables
  • Because different plants contain different nutrients, it is important to vary your intake
  • Eat fruits and vegetables in season: they are cheaper, have better flavour and nutrient content and are more likely to be local
  • Listen to your body to determine if particular foods cause you issues. For example, many fruits and vegetables are sources of FODMAPs, so you might have to limit their intake if you have any symptoms. Work with a dietitian if you need help.
  • If you’re struggling to eat more vegetables here are some ideas:
    • Throw some spinach, kale and/or avocado into your smoothies
    • If you have a juicer that keeps the fibre, use beetroot, carrot, celery and/or cucumber in your juices
    • Add vegetables to your soups, stews, curries, pasta sauce and even desserts (carrots, beetroot, beetroot and sweet potato are common addition to cakes)
    • Use vegetable sticks instead of crackers to eat dips
    • Serve pasta sauce and stews on vegetables instead of pasta or rice
    • Use other vegetables besides potatoes for mash, for example cauliflower, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, sweet potato, pumpkin (or a combination)
    • Add greens to your regular mash
    • Visit the recipe section for inspiration

References

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15, ‘Table 12: Daily intake of fruit and vegetables – Australia’, data cube: Excel spreadsheet, cat. no. 4364055001DO012_20142015, viewed 8 November 2018, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&4364055001do012_20142015.xls&4364.0.55.001&Data%20Cubes&21142A5792B57B5BCA257F150009FABA&0&2014-15&08.12.2015&Latest
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15, ‘Table 17: Children’s daily intake of fruit and vegetables and main type of milk consumed – Australia’, data cube: Excel spreadsheet, cat. no. 4364055001DO017_20142015, viewed 8 November 2018, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&4364055001do017_20142015.xls&4364.0.55.001&Data%20Cubes&F2CCDDF4D775330CCA257F150009FBBD&0&2014-15&08.12.2015&Latest

[Photo by ja ma on Unsplash]

Recipe: Banana pancakes

Banana pancakes are the perhaps the easiest pancakes you’ll ever make. This recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.

The basic recipe has only 2 ingredients: banana and eggs. That’s 1 serve of fruit and 1 serve of protein foods ticked off for the day. I add cinnamon because I love its taste and it helps control blood sugar.

Ripe bananas work best for this recipe, as they are easier to mash. Smaller pancakes are easier to flip. If you are like me and the sweetness of the banana is enough, you can use unsweetened yoghurt (e.g. YoPro or Rokeby Farms) or peanut butter (e.g. Mayver’s) as toppings. These will also increase the protein content of the meal. Otherwise, feel free to use honey, maple syrup or any other topping of your choice.

Banana pancakes

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ghee or olive oil

To serve

  • honey or maple syrup or Greek yoghurt or peanut butter

Directions

  1. Mash banana and eggs using a food processor, blender, potato masher or fork. Try to achieve a smooth consistency.
  2. Add cinnamon and mix well.
  3. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan, pour about 1/3 cup of batter and cook until it has firmed up and it’s easy to flip.
  4. Flip and cook on the other side.
  5. Serve with your chosen topping.

alcohol and health

Alcohol and health: To drink or not to drink

With the end of the year almost here, most of us have social events to attend, which in many cases means increased alcohol consumption. If you wonder what’s the relationship between alcohol and health, read on.

Alcohol, a drug and a nutrient

Alcohol is one of the most prevalent socially accepted drugs. It is also a nutrient, in the sense that it contributes to energy intake. Each gram of alcohol contributes 7 kilocalories (29.3 kilojoules) per gram. Compare this to 4 kilocalories (16.7 kilojoules) per gram of carbohydrate or protein and 9 kilocalories (37.7 kilojoules) per gram of fat.

To put these numbers into perspective, a standard drink is a volume that contains 10 grams (12.5ml) of alcohol. This equals to 70 kilocalories or 293 kilojoules just from the alcohol, to which you should add calories from other macronutrients (e.g. sugar) present on the drink. Also note that regular-sized cans/bottles of beer, cider and pre-mixed drink and glasses of wine all contain more than 1 standard drink. Ditto for cocktails which contain more than one shot of spirits or liqueur. Bottom line: the calories add up.

Nutrients in alcoholic beverages

Besides alcohol, many alcoholic drinks contain carbohydrate (mainly sugar). Some might contain some fat and/or protein (which also contribute to total kilojoules) and/or caffeine.

Comparing alcoholic drinks is tricky due to the wide variability in serving sizes and alcoholic percentage. Below are a couple of charts comparing different drinks per 100g, using data from the AUSNUT database (1).

The chart below has the volume adjusted to typical serving sizes: 375ml for beer, ciders and mixed drinks, 250ml for cocktails, 150ml for wine, 50ml for fortified drinks and liqueurs, 30ml for spirits.

Standard drinks

In Australia, alcoholic beverage labels must include the number of standard drinks. The same applies for imported beverages. If you come across a bottle that does not have this on the label, you can calculate it with this formula:

# standard drinks = volume (ml) * % alcohol * 0.789

Example: # standard drinks in a 375ml can of beer that has 4.8% alcohol = 0.375 * 4.8 * 0.789 = 1.4 standard drinks

Alcohol and health

You’ve probably heard that drinking a glass or two of wine a day is good for you. However, alcohol consumption has also been link to detrimental effects on health. The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2) are informed by a large body of evidence. Below is a summary of the potential effects of drinking.

Positive

  • Moderate consumption of alcohol (1 standard drink for women, 1.5 to 2 for men) may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, increase HDL cholesterol and have a mild anti-coagulant effect.
  • Some alcoholic beverages, such as wine, contain bioactive flavonoids, which may be beneficial for health.

Negative

  • Consumption of alcohol is associated with increased risk of breast and oesophageal cancer.
  • Heavy drinking can affect the structure of the brain in young adults, leading to cognitive impairment.
  • Alcoholics can develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome due to thiamine deficiency. Symptoms include: disturbances in gait, paralysis of eye muscles and irreversible memory loss.
  • Alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of arrhythmias, shortness of breath, some types of cardiac failure, haemorrhagic stroke and other circulatory problems.
  • Alcohol interferes with glucose metabolism due to its effect on insulin and glucagon. This is particularly important for people with diabetes.
  • Alcohol consumption can be associated with the consumption of junk food, energy drinks, added sugars, etc.

Having said that, drinking alcoholic beverages might confer health benefits that go beyond the physiological effects of their components. For example, for some people having a few drinks with loved ones might decrease stress and strengthen community bonds.

Guidelines

The current guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council are as follows (3):

“Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime

The lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount consumed.

For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

Guideline 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking

On a single occasion of drinking, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed.

For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

Guideline 3: Children and young people under 18 years of age

For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

A. Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.
B. For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

Guideline 4: Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby.

A. For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
B. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.”

Recommendations

In addition from following the guidelines above, consider the following recommendations:

  • If you have problems controlling your alcohol intake or have health conditions that are affected by alcohol (e.g. liver issues, alcohol metabolism deficiencies, severe gout), it would be better for you to don’t drink at all.
  • If you don’t want to drink but feel social pressure, order sparkling water with ice and lime or lemon.
  • If you choose to drink:
    • If alcohol triggers you to eat junk food, drink less frequently. Note that this doesn’t give you permission to binge drink. Also, don’t keep junk food in your house.
    • Drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage.
    • Avoid beverages that have added sugar or caffeine.
    • Don’t drink something if it doesn’t agree with you. For example, if you have histamine intolerance, you might want to avoid wine and beer. If tequila gives you headaches, stay away from it.
    • If you have blood glucose control issues or are following a low carbohydrate diet, your best options are spirits (on the rocks or mixed with sparkling water), red wine and dry white/sparkling wine.
    • If you have Coealiac Disease or gluten intolerance and want to drink beer, there are a couple of gluten-free alternatives available in major bottle shops and some pubs: O’Brien and Wilde. Cider is also gluten-free but much higher in sugar.
    • Avoid drinking right before going to bed because alcohol interferes with sleep quality.

More information and useful calculators can be found at drinkwise.org.au.

References

  1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. 2014 [Available from: www.foodstandards.gov.au].
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013.
  3. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2009.
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 43640DO004_20112012 Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011–12 – Australia. 2014.

[Photo by Moss on Unsplash]

Recipe: One pan lamb chops with vegetables and chimichurri

Lamb and chimichurri are common items in Argentinian menus. Although they do a lot of asado (BBQ), lamb is more often eaten slow-cooked by open fire. I wanted this recipe to capture the essence of Argentinian food without sacrificing practicality. These lamb chops with chimichurri can be easily made on a weeknight with ingredients that are easy to get.

Following the “meat and 3 veg” tradition, I used romanesco, carrots and kale for this recipe. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have handy that are suitable for roasting, for example: cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, Brussel sprouts, celeriac, parsnips, swedes, turnips, green beans, radishes, etc.

One additional note: the chimichurri recipe will make more than enough, keep the leftover sauce in a glass jar in the fridge and use it later. Besides meat, you can drizzle it on baked potatoes, bread, salads, etc.

One pan lamb chops with vegetables and chimichurri

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Chops and veggies

  • 1 kg lamb chops (loin or chump)
  • 2 small-medium heads of romanesco, cauliflower or broccoli
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • 1 small bunch of kale or other dark leafy green

Chimichurri

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 red capsicum, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions

  1. Prepare the chimichurri by mixing all ingredients. Let it sit at room temperature for flavours to marry.
  2. Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced).
  3. Chop vegetables in large chunks and place in a roasting pan (you can line it with baking paper for easier clean-up). Season lamb chops with salt and pepper on both sides and place them on top of the vegetables.
  4. Roast for 20-30, flipping the chops midway through.
  5. Serve purist-style (vegetables with chops and sauce on the side) or rebel-style (vegetables with chops on top, drizzled with sauce).

health benefits of nuts

Health benefits of nuts

The health benefits of nuts are widely accepted in many cultures. Most traditional cuisines incorporate nuts in one way or another. Nuts are part of many dietary patterns, including vegan (raw or regular), vegetarian, pescetarian, paleo, keto, Mediterranean, etc.

Tree nuts and peanuts

Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, etc. Peanuts are botanically legumes, but are considered in the “nut” category due to its similar nutritional profile. Sadly, they also share the potential to cause food allergy. Both tree nuts and peanuts are in the list of top ten food allergens that must be declared in food packaging (read more about food allergy here).

Most scientific studies include peanuts when analysing nut consumption. Likewise, the Australian Dietary Guidelines consider peanuts in the nut category.

Nutrients in nuts

Nuts are energy-dense due to their high fat content. Depending on the type of nut, they also provide some protein and fibre. This make them ideal for controlling hunger. See table below for average values per 100g of raw nuts (1).

Different nuts have different proportions of the main kinds of fatty acids: saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA). See table below for average content per 100g of nuts (1). MUFAs and PUFAs are less stable than SFAs, hence the proclivity of nuts to become rancid. The human body requires a mixture of fatty acids, and, in general, it is better to obtain them from whole foods such as nuts.

Nuts also contain micronutrients such as polyphenols, which also confer health benefits.

Diabetes

The analysis of a large cohort study found that people who consumed walnuts had lower relative risk of diabetes compared to people who didn’t consume nuts at all (2).

Almonds, pistachios and peanuts may help control blood sugar and insulin (3).

Body composition

The UK Women’s Cohort Study found that higher nut consumption was associated with lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. The researchers also analysed the results grouped by food preferences. Some of the benefits seemed to be more pronounced for omnivores than vegetarians and vegans (4).

Almonds and peanuts increase satiety, allowing for better intake control. In addition, peanuts may help improve fat oxidation (3).

Cardiovascular risk

The same study also found higher nut consumption was also associated reduced blood pressure and blood cholesterol. Participants who ate more nuts also had less prevalence of heart attack, diabetes and gallstones (4).

Walnuts in particular have been linked to improvements in blood lipids and endothelial function (3, 5). The phytosterols, unsaturated fatty acids and fibre in nuts seem play a role in the former, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a PUFA that contributes 10% of the energy in walnuts, may be responsible for the latter (5).

Pistachios have also been associated with favourable changes in blood lipids and vascular function (3).

Nuts also contain potassium, which seems to counteract the effects of excess sodium on elevating blood pressure (5).

Inflammation and oxidative stress

An analysis of 2 large cohort studies found that higher nut consumption was associated with lower concentrations of the following inflammatory markers: C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-60 (IL-6), but not tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2). This association also was noted when 3 servings of nuts replaced the same number of servings of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains. The same relationship was found for CRP when nuts replaced potatoes and potato chips (6).

Walnuts contain g-tocopherol, a potent antioxidant that aids in reducing inflammation (3, 5). A type of polyphenol in walnuts, called ellagitannins, have also been linked to antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities (5).

Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which has antioxidant properties (3).

Recommendations

  • If you have a nut allergy, make sure you let people know in restaurants, airplanes, functions, etc. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • As a general rule, a reasonable intake of nuts is around 30g per day. This may be adjusted based on age, gender, body mass, activity level, etc.
  • Raw, dry roasted and “activated” (soaked, then dried) nuts are best
  • When possible, keep nuts in the freezer or fridge to protect the fatty acids
  • Don’t eat nuts that taste or smell rancid
  • Eat a variety of nuts to ensure a wide exposure to beneficial nutrients
  • If you don’t like to eat nuts on their own, try adding them to salads, yoghurt, etc.
  • If you struggle with portion control and/or want to lose weight, the following strategies can be useful:
    • Buy single-serve packages or use small containers to portion your daily snack
    • Buy nuts in the shell and shell them before eating
    • Choose whole nuts instead of nut butters
    • Avoid making treats with nut meal or butter

References

  1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. 2014 [Available from: www.foodstandards.gov.au].
  2. Arab L, Dhaliwal SK, Martin CJ, Larios AD, Jackson NJ, Elashoff D. Association between walnut consumption and diabetes risk in NHANES. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews. 2018;34(7):e3031.
  3. de Souza RGM, Schincaglia RM, Pimentel GD, Mota JF. Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(12).
  4. Brown RC, Gray AR, Tey SL, Chisholm A, Burley V, Greenwood DC, et al. Associations between Nut Consumption and Health Vary between Omnivores, Vegetarians, and Vegans. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1219.
  5. Ros E, Izquierdo-Pulido M, Sala-Vila A. Beneficial effects of walnut consumption on human health: role of micronutrients. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care. 2018;21(6):498-504.
  6. Yu Z, Malik VS, Keum N, Hu FB, Giovannucci EL, Stampfer MJ, et al. Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;104(3):722-8.

[Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash]

Recipe: My mum’s pollo con piña (pineapple chicken)

Mum is a great cook. Pollo con piña (pineapple chicken) was one of her go-to meals, possibly the one she made the most often. We had it for dinner on regular weekdays and also on special occasions, such as my dad’s birthday.

I have to confess that at some stage of my life I got tired of eating this dish. However, I’ve been away from home long enough for me to miss it. Last time I visited my family I asked mum for the recipe. Of course, she gave me general directions with no quantities nor times. I’m still amazed that the dish tasted the same every single time. I decided to give it a shot given that it’s dad’s birthday month and I like to do something every year to remember him.

Notes on ingredients: mum uses regular soy sauce and ketchup (tomato sauce), potato starch and pineapple in syrup. I used tamari, sugar-free tomato sauce from Richard’s Country Kitchen, tapioca starch and pineapple in juice. From memory, my version is pretty close to the original and a little healthier.

My mum's pollo con piña

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp + 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1/2 tsp + 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 pineapple in juice slices + 2 tbsp of the juice
  • 250g snow peas
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 6 green onions, white and light green part only

To serve


Directions

  1. Marinate chicken with garlic, 1/2 tsp tamari and 1/2 tsp potato starch.
  2. Wash vegetables, pull off stems of snow peas, slice capsicum and cut green onions in pieces 6-8cm long.
  3. Brown chicken on all sides.
  4. Lower heat, add remaining tamari, tomato sauce and pineapple juice, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Add capsicum, snow peas, green onion and pineapple and remaining 1 tsp tapioca starch dissolved in 2 cold water.
  6. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice.

lucuma

What is lucuma (and how to pronounce it)

Lucuma (written lúcuma in Spanish) is an Andean fruit that grows in Peru, Ecuador and Chile. It has been around since before the Incas and it’s still widely consumed in the region. Listen to the correct pronunciation in this link.

Lucuma is generally the size of an orange or grapefruit, although there are also smaller ones. The fruit has a thin green skin that splits open when ripe. The flesh is yellow-orange, sweet, firm and starchy. It has a few round medium-sized brown seeds.

lucuma

Culinary uses

In Peru, the fruit can be found fresh (mainly during summer months), frozen and powdered (also known as “harina de lúcuma). The availability of the powder seems to have diminished with time, perhaps due to exports.

Lucuma is normally not eaten by itself, but mostly used in smoothies and desserts. It pairs well with dairy and chocolate. It is also used in cocktails and confectionery.

Below are a couple of recipes using the powdered version:

Nutrients in lucuma

Fresh lucuma is high in carbohydrate and contains some fibre and vitamins. Below is a comparison between the fresh and powdered versions (1).

How does fresh lucuma compare to apples, bananas and oranges (i.e. the most commonly eaten fruits in Australia)? It has more carbohydrate, less fibre and less vitamin C per 100 grams, as shown in the table below (1, 2).

Of course, if you live in Australia you will most likely come across the powder and not the fresh fruit. See table below for a comparison to other powders that are somewhat common ingredients in things like smoothies: cacao, beetroot and acai powder (1, 3).

Lucuma also contains a high amount of phenolic compounds compared to other Peruvian fruits (4).

Health benefits

The phenolics in lucuma have antioxidant activity. It may also help manage type 2 diabetes due to its inhibitory activity on the enzyme alpha-glucosidase (4).

There is also preliminary research suggesting that the specific fatty acids in lucuma seed oil may improve skin wounds and skin inflammatory conditions (5).

Superfood?

As other exotic fruits, lucuma has received a bit of attention lately. Many brands in Australia offer lucuma powder and I’ve seen it offered as an ingredient for smoothies in Sydney. There is also a brand of popcorn that has lucuma powder among other “superfoods” although they have spelled it wrong in their website and packaging. I have seen this misspelling elsewhere in the web as well. See screenshots below.

References

  1. Fundación Universitaria Iberoamericana. Base de Datos Internacional de Composición de Alimentos. 2017 [Available from: https://www.composicionnutricional.com/alimentos].
  2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. 2014 [Available from: www.foodstandards.gov.au].
  3. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current: September 2015 [Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/].
  4. Pinto Mda S, Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Lajolo FM, Genovese MI, Shetty K. Evaluation of antihyperglycemia and antihypertension potential of native Peruvian fruits using in vitro models. Journal of medicinal food. 2009;12(2):278-91.
  5. Rojo LE, Villano CM, Joseph G, Schmidt B, Shulaev V, Shuman JL, et al. Wound-healing properties of nut oil from Pouteria lucuma. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010;9(3):185-95.

Recipe: Black sesame baba ganoush

Black sesame baba ganoush is also (see my recipe for black sesame hummus) my kind of dip. Tasty, healthy, black. It looks scary enough for people to avoid it, so there’s always more for me. Make it for Halloween or any other day.

Black sesame seeds are widely used in Chinese medicine. Science suggests they may lower blood pressure and protect against oxidative stress (1). They may also reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels as well as protect cardiovascular, liver and kidney function, among other positive outcomes. Scientists have found at least 20 metabolites that are higher in black sesame seeds than in the white variety and might be responsible for their health benefits (2).

Baba ganoush can be spelled several different ways and I’m sure there’s some controversy regarding which country invented it. Regardless, it’s delicious and also healthy, vegan, gluten-free and it contributes to your daily vegetable intake.

Black sesame baba ganoush

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons black tahini
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

To serve

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Optional but recommended: Wrap garlic cloves in foil and bake for 20-40 minutes at medium heat (160-170°C).
  2. If you decide not to roast the garlic, mince it.
  3. Set oven to grill or broiler, place eggplants on a baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes, turning it every once in a while until the skin is charred on all sides.
  4. Split eggplant in two lengthwise and scoop the flesh out.
  5. Place in a blender or food processor with the rest of ingredients. Process until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Check seasoning, serve in a bowl sprinkled with chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crudités (fancy for raw vegetable sticks) and/or crackers.

References

  1. Wichitsranoi J, Weerapreeyakul N, Boonsiri P, Settasatian C, Settasatian N, Komanasin N, et al. Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10(1):82.
  2. Wang D, Zhang L, Huang X, Wang X, Yang R, Mao J, et al. Identification of Nutritional Components in Black Sesame Determined by Widely Targeted Metabolomics and Traditional Chinese Medicines. Molecules. 2018;23(5).

Recipe: Black sesame hummus

Black sesame hummus is my kind of dip. Tasty, healthy, black. It looks scary enough for people to avoid it, so there’s always more for me. Make it for Halloween or any other day.

Black sesame seeds are widely used in Chinese medicine. Science suggests they may lower blood pressure and protect against oxidative stress (1). They may also reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels as well as protect cardiovascular, liver and kidney function, among other positive outcomes. Scientists have found at least 20 metabolites that are higher in black sesame seeds than in the white variety and might be responsible for their health benefits (2).

Hummus is also pretty healthy. In fact, it is considered a healthy staple in many circles as it’s vegan, gluten-free, high in fibre, relatively high in protein, etc. There is controversy as to where hummus hails from but I won’t go there. I do recommend listening to this Savor podcast episode if you want to know more about this tasty dip.

Black tahini hummus

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (400g) chickpeas
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tbsp black tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt and black pepper

To serve

  • smoked paprika
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Optional but recommended: Wrap garlic cloves in foil and bake for 20-40 minutes at medium heat (160-170°C).
  2. If you decide not to roast the garlic, mince it.
  3. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place in a blender or food processor with 1/4 cup water and the rest of ingredients. Process until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Check seasoning, serve in a bowl sprinkled with smoked paprika and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crudités (fancy for raw vegetable sticks) and/or crackers.

References

  1. Wichitsranoi J, Weerapreeyakul N, Boonsiri P, Settasatian C, Settasatian N, Komanasin N, et al. Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10(1):82.
  2. Wang D, Zhang L, Huang X, Wang X, Yang R, Mao J, et al. Identification of Nutritional Components in Black Sesame Determined by Widely Targeted Metabolomics and Traditional Chinese Medicines. Molecules. 2018;23(5).