February. A short month that, for fellow students and myself flies by all too quickly. We are finally adjusting to our schedules and getting to know our new professors just in time for our first midterm exam. February is not only an adjustment month for all of us here at MSU, Denver but also a whole month dedicated to heart health! As we all know heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million adults in the U.S. have at least one form of heart disease- including coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, heart defects, infections and cardiomyopathy. We can make very simple adjustments to our diet to make ourselves more heart healthy. One simple step is to increase fruit and vegetable intake.
Fruits and vegetables not only offer an array of vitamins and minerals but they also provide antioxidants. As we all know from our many tedious hours of organic chemistry, free radicals are formed from chemical reactions in the body that causes an unpaired electron or “free radical” to be roaming around in our systems. This free radical is highly reactive and has been linked to many diseases, such as coronary artery disease and some forms of cancer. Since antioxidants are one of our best defenses against free radicals it is important to get the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. The American Heart Association recommends
• Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 servings a day
• Fish (preferably oily fish): At least to 3.5 ounce servings per week
• Fiber-rich whole grains: At least 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day
• Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day
• Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) per week.
As future nutritional professionals we can increase people’s fruit and vegetable intake by introducing new foods or new ways to cook certain foods. I personally feel like every recipe I come across lately involves cauliflower, or maybe it’s just my particular Pinterest feed. Either way it is a fantastic vegetable to recommend to anyone who wants to become more heart healthy. Cauliflower’s cousins are cabbage, kale and broccoli, which are rich in nutrients and provide health-promoting compounds not found in many other vegetables. Cauliflower has been linked to cancer prevention, detox support, and providing excellent anti-inflammatory benefits. More importantly for the heart patient, it provides antioxidants! Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C and manganese. It also provides a vast array of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid and cinnamic acid which are just a few of its phytonutrients that could prevent free radicals. In order to increase Cauliflower intake I have included my favorite recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchen cookbook.
Makes 10 cups, 4 to 6 servings
1/3 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1. Put the cashews in a blender and blend until finely ground. Add 3/4 cup of water and blend for 2 minutes. Pour the cashew mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon, into a bowl. Set the cashew milk aside until needed.
2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and sauté until golden. Add the cauliflower, coconut milk, cashew milk, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until the desired consistency is reached. If using a standing blender, allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes. Pour the soup into the blender. Hold the lid down firmly with a clean, folded towel over it. Start on low speed and blend until the soup is smooth. Return to the pot and reheat if serving hot. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the onions and cilantro before serving.
Enjoy, and remember it is heart health month so take a break from studying to get active and enjoy our beautiful Colorado weather or cook up some new Cauliflower dishes in the kitchen!
American Heart Association http://www.heart.org, http://www.whfoods.com
Recipe: Dr. Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchen cookbook