With many now participating in the Six Week Holiday Challenge, it’s the perfect time to learn helpful and healthful cooking skills that are crucial to supporting the nutritarian eating style. Linda Popescu, M.S., R.D. is Dr. Fuhrman's Research Assistant; along with being the “Vitamin Advisor” for DrFuhrman.com and faculty member of the Nutritional Education Institute. Welcome to Disease Proof, Linda.
There are a few essential cooking techniques that need to be mastered when you commit to a nutrient dense diet style. While these may be old news for our seasoned Eat to Live veterans, it might be helpful to review them for those who are new to this way of eating.
The Six Week Holiday Challenge is a great opportunity to develop and practice new cooking skills. Nutritarian cooking can be simple or gourmet. You don’t have to be a chef and have unlimited time to cook wonderful meals. On the other hand, if you do enjoy spending time in the kitchen you don’t need to stifle your culinary creativity.
Soups, Salads and Smoothies are the backbone of the nutritarian diet. Soups/Stews play a big role because when vegetables are simmered in soup, all the nutrients are retained in the liquid. It is easy to incorporate a variety of green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, onions, beans and other healthy ingredients all in one pot. A big advantage to making soups and stews is that they make great leftovers. Make a pot of soup for dinner and you will also have lunch taken care of for several days.
Many of Dr. Fuhrman’s soup recipes use fresh vegetable juices such as carrot juice for the base. Use freshly juiced carrot juice for maximum flavor or if you are short on time, refrigerated bottled carrot juice can be purchased. No- salt-added or low sodium vegetable broth is also used in some soup recipes. As a general guideline, do not use a vegetable broth that has more than 200 mg of sodium per one cup serving. To make a “cream” soup, blend raw cashews or cashew butter into the soup to provide a creamy texture and rich flavor. Simply remove a portion of the cooked soup (2-3 cups) and blend with raw cashews (usually around ½ cup) then return the blended soup/cashew mixture to the soup pot.
When it comes to salads, think big. We are not talking about a saucer full of iceberg lettuce. Get a big salad bowl and eat the whole thing. Experiment with a variety of salad greens: romaine, baby greens, spinach, mache, watercress, arugula, Boston lettuce or shredded cabbage. Add other interesting colorful veggies as well as a variety of beans. This eating style features creamy dressings and dips created with nuts, seeds and avocados. These whole foods supply healthy fats that complement the vegetables. Use a food processor or high powered blender when making nut/seed based dressings and dips. Gourmet fruit flavored or balsamic vinegars are also used in many recipes to add unique and delicious flavors.
Smoothies blend raw vegetables with fruit to efficiently increase your nutrient absorption. When we chew we don’t do an efficient job of releasing all the nutrients hidden within the plant cell walls. When making smoothies and blended salads, the blender does the job for you. A powerful blender such as a Vita-Mix is a good investment that will last a lifetime. It can blend nuts, seeds, frozen fruit and vegetables into creamy delicious drinks. Smoothies are great for breakfast. They are portable and require minimal time and effort.
Another basic technique to learn is water sautéing (also called sweating or steam frying) which is used instead of cooking with oil. It is used for stir frys, sauces, and many other vegetable dishes. To water sauté, heat a skillet, wok or pan over high heat until water sputters when dropped on it. Add a small amount of water (2-3 tablespoons) and the items to be cooked such as onions, garlic, peppers or other vegetables. Add more water as necessary and cover occasionally until the vegetables are tender. Do not add too much water or the food will be boiled not sautéed. To develop flavor, let the pan dry enough for the food to lightly brown before you add more water.
During the Six Week Challenge, use the DrFuhrman.com Member Center Recipe Guide to locate new recipes that work for you. It currently contains over 800 recipes with more being added every day. You can search for recipes by category, name or ingredient. Members can rate recipes on a scale of one to five stars and add comments. You can even sort recipes by rating so you can quickly see the recipes that are the most popular. Try the recipes, rate them yourself and share your own favorite Dr. Fuhrman-friendly creations with us.
image credits: flickr - vegetable soup by Simon; smoothie by taupetortois; vegetable stir fry by The Gifted Photographer