Winter isn't just coming, it's here -- and without the proper armor against the onslaught of sugar cookies, white peppermint mocha-chinos and your least favorite aunt chiding you to take that fourth plate at Christmas dinner, your once impenetrable wall of self control might just be overtaken by a metaphorical inflammation icing dragon. Sorry, I’m done with the Game Of Thrones puns -- the allure of you picturing your least favorite relative riding atop a gingerbread dragon attacking your will power was too much for me to not engrain in you.
But in all seriousness, eating seasonal vegetables is crucial to your health. Countless studies have shown higher lectin content in off-season vegetables, which can ultimately lead to higher levels of inflammation. In this game, to stay on the planet for as long as possible, we must use every tool in our nutritional tool kit to maintain our health through the hazardous holiday season.
1. BONE BROTH
Bone broth isn’t necessarily seasonally relevant, but -- as the weather cools down, Soup Season becomes a real thing for many of us. Whether you are sipping it as a collagen dense source of nutrients in the morning straight or as a base to your favorite soup, bone broth is a winter must.
Collagen is the star player on the bone broth squad, and for good reason. It has the potential to fix leaky gut, increase nutrient absorption, improve sleep quality, reduce joint inflammation and increase the overall health of your skin.
Collagen acts on the mucosal layer of your intestines, helping to fill the small holes that develop over time in your intestinal lining from a variety of different factors. Leaky gut can be found along side quite a few different autoimmune diseases, and if left unattended, amplifies symptoms of autoimmune related ailments. Having a leaky gut can actually affect your skin as well, causing malabsorption of nutrients linked to skin health while allowing foreign, undigested food particles and bacteria into the bloodstream.
Collagen protein found in bone broth is rich in amino acids like glycine, proline and glutamine (1), glycine being at the root of improved sleep performance. Glycine is an anti-inflammatory amino acid that promotes a higher quality sleep by regulating your body’s internal temperature and while stabilizing one’s circadian rhythm (2). Glutamine and proline have been shown to be highly effective at lowering joint pain and inflammation.
So, how does one best integrate bone broth into their daily life? I’d recommend sipping it in the morning to break your fast (whenever that may be for you), adding it as a base for any soup you may be making for lunch and then bookending your day with a nice cup of bone broth before bed as you begin your evening wind down routine.
Check out this epic recipe from our founder, Mary: https://paleochef.com/2015/01/26/wild-thing-bone-broth-recipe/
Beets get a bad rap, give beets a chance. Beets belong to the tuber family of vegetables and host a long list of benefits ranging from lowered inflammation, binding to free radicals and increased athletic performance.
Winter is full of opportunities for increase blood pressure as stress hormones course through our veins. A 2016 study showed that both cooked beets as well as beetroot juice were statistically significant in lowering inflammatory markers for those with high blood pressure (3).
Beets are full of free radical binding antioxidants and substances called nitrates. Naturally-occurring nitrates are different than the added nitrates added to processed deli meats, so don’t use this article as justification to swap your high quality meats for the cheaper, nitrate heavy preserved meats. Naturally-occurring nitrates have been shown to improve the efficiency of your powerhouse cells, aka your mitochondria. If your mitochondria are functioning at their highest level, your energy systems have more gas for when the tough gets going. As an added bonus, high levels of dietary nitrates have been shown to increase time to exhaustion while increasing tolerance for high intensity exercise for athletes (4).
We’ve got a special featured recipe being offered at your local Erewhon tonic bar very, very soon. Stay tuned!
Pomegranates are the bane of every winter loving culinary enthusiast, that is until we all learned how to properly remove it’s delicious seeds the right way …
Pomegranates have a very special variety of polyphenols called punicalagins. These punicalagins are responsible for a lions share of antioxidant related activity due to consumption of pomegranate derivatives (5). Another interesting little factoid about pomegranates: they have three times the antioxidant content of both red wine and green tea (6).
Along with its punicalagins, pomegranates are potent sources of punicic acid, which is a type of conjugated linoleic acid that can help protect against heart disease in a variety of fashions (7). Punicic acid has also been linked to positively altering HDL:LDL ratios by lowering bad LDL as well as preventing certain LDL cholesterols from oxidizing (8). Pomegranates have also been shown to fight against Alzheimer’s disease via decreasing neuroinflammation (9).
So if you’re down to take your antioxidant game to the next level while protecting your brain and heart, make sure you add pomegranates to this winter’s palate. Also be careful of store bought pomegranate juice, brands tend to sneak unnecessary amounts of sugar into the blend that somewhat negate the benefits. So just to be safe, you should probably just eat the seeds .. with some bork belly.
Persimmons, the Japanese originating, nutrient dense fruit, are an incredible, mouth numbing addition to any winter salad. High in vitamin A, C and manganese it is a strong candidate for the pro bowl -- of winter fruit.
Persimmons are particularly useful in fighting certain varieties of cancer, including breast, prostate and colon. A specific type of flavonoid called fisetin is at the center of its anti-cancer properties.
Trying to have your cake AND eat it too? Try this Persimmon Merengue Piecaken: https://paleochef.com/2015/12/08/persimmon-merengue-caramel-vanilla-piecaken-paleo-what/
Thoughts of spinach elicit Popeye getting his ass handed to him, then riding a wave powered by a mid-round can of spinach to the ultimate come-from-behind underdog victory. Maybe it was his improved vision, reduced oxidative stress, lowered cancer risk or improved blood pressure levels. Maybe it was the high level of plant based proteins found in spinach, coming in at 2.9g per 100 grams. We can’t be sure of the dietarily derived allies that spinach conjures up, but we certainly have a cartoonish correlation ingrained into our brains.
One of the main things you’ll need to look out for when consuming spinach are a pesky little thing called oxalates. Raw spinach has a moderate amount of oxalic acid that CAN*** interfere with calcium and iron absorption. Now, I’m not saying you can’t eat raw spinach, but what I am saying is don’t eat use raw spinach as your base for EVERY big salad you make. More support for eating cooked spinach: higher levels of micronutrient absorption. Spinach is full of Vitamins A an E, zinc, calcium, and iron, all of which are better absorbed when exposed to heat.
Try this spinach recipe from Mary, its cooked, so don’t sweat the oxalates: https://paleochef.com/2015/12/14/grain-free-spanikopita/
Onions can be found at the base of many a flavor profile of cuisines around the world. In my opinion, onions make the culinary world go round. As an added benefit, they’re also important for gut health. Onions are prebiotics, meaning that they provide food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Without prebiotics, your good bacteria starve and your less optimal bacteria steal the show.
Onions can also be a powerful tool against asthma and other inflammatory based diseases.
Onions have a contain quercetin, which works as an an anti-inflammatory antihistamine. Due to their quercetin driven powers, onions can also join in on the anti-cancer batter when taken alongside turmeric by increasing the bioavailability of turmeric’s star compound, curcumin.
Onions can prevent cancer when combined with turmeric, as the quercetin makes it more bioavailable (11).
Try Mary’s Beef Tartare, and enjoy the benefits of onions and beyond: https://paleochef.com/2016/07/01/instagram-june-30-2016-at-0820pm/
7. SWEET POTATOES
Sweet potatoes contain the full spectrum of B vitamins as well as Vitamin C, not to mention iron, selenium and calcium. Sweet potatoes are also an unusually high source of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A. As a high source of fiber, sweet potatoes can be used to stabilize blood sugar when consuming higher levels of carbohydrates and proteins.
So, why all of this hullabaloo in the debate for sweet potatoes over regular potatoes? One word, lectins. Lectins are certain plant compounds that cause digestive distress in humans. Basically lectins are the front line of defense for plants to prevent consumption. Sweet potatoes are notoriously lower in lectin content than their lighter skinned counterparts.
Head over to Bravabod's Instagram to check out this delicious vegan recipe: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bq5u4bHAbRk/
8. OYSTER MUSHROOMS
Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses, and have been gaining recognition over the last few few years. One cup of oyster mushrooms contains 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. You won’t find many other plant based protein sources that boast this type of keto-friendly macronutrient profile.
Oyster mushrooms are one of the few fungi that contains ergothioneine, enabling it to fight against free radicals while lowering inflammation. It has also been shown that ergothioneine can prevent plaque building that is one of the leading causes of heart disease (12).
Oyster mushrooms can be considered a nootropic nutraceutical due to its high levels of niacin. Niacin is a neuroprotective agent that fights Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline as we age (13).
Check out Tracy’s tom kha gai recipe to increase your mushroom intake this winter: http://www.wholedailylife.com/blog/2017/8/25/tom-kha-gai
Parsnips are my hidden weapon on the war against over consumption of carbs. A nice parsnip mash can replace mashed potatoes at any holiday soiree. Both parsnips and potatoes contain high levels of B vitamins, parsnips are a significantly better source of folic acid. One cup of cooked parsnips represents almost a quarter of the recommended intake of folic acid in comparison to the 5% brought to the table by potatoes.
Folate regulates the nervous and metabolic systems while aiding in the fight against depression, cancer and aging. Parsnips are also great sources of potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and manganese.
Check out this parsnip mash recipe that might have you waving goodbye to mashed potatoes forever: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrRKVeigPIT/
Cauliflower is the darling of the keto movement, boasting a top notch net carb ratio that promises all the fluffy texture of rice and bread, without the glycemic spike. Two grams of net carbs and protein per single cup serving adds to its allure for those of us chasing the pizza dragon, but just can’t justify the wheat belly that comes along with it.
Cauliflower is also a prebiotic, which benefits the fight between the good vs bad gut bacteria (14). Some roasted buffalo cauliflower bites paired with a coconut yogurt based ranch … you’ve got yourself a gut friendly tailgate spread that delivers on taste and digestive prowess. Cauliflower contains two antioxidants called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, both of which have been shown to slow cancer growth (15).
Cauliflower may be yet another nutraceutical nootropic due to its choline content. One cup of cauliflower contains 45 mg of choline, not enough by itself to drive enhanced brain performance, but when used in conjunction with other choline containing compounds, can drastically improve production of neurotransmitters that are required for brain development and a healthy nervous system (16).
Try this creamy cashew cauliflower casserole from Mary: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrYKIboAv0P/