Here are some healing ingredients to choose during this snowy time of year. Please click here to sign up for email updates and gain recipes that include these foods.
Dry beans: rich in fiber and protein, these legumes provide readily available energy for the body to burn while maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and soothing the intestines.
Selecting beans:choose local, organic beans whenever possible. I purchase bulk beans from the bulk department of my natural foods store or place a special order with Butterworks Farm.
Preparing beans for cooking: Start by soaking your beans overnight. This process cuts cooking time in half and makes them easier to digest.
Types of beans:
Kidney beans have a deep red color, hold their shape well when cooked, and make a great choice for vegetable stews, bean salads, or red beans and rice. They are a wonderful kidney tonic in the winter.
Pinto beans, once cooked, lose their markings and turn pink. They're delicious in tomato-based stews and combine well with spicy foods.
Black beans, also known as turtle, have a mild, sweet taste. Because of their dense texture, they are perfect when combined with sharp flavors. Their digestive effect is a bit more drying than with other beans, so choose them in the spring.
Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, have a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and can be cooked down into a creamy sauce and made into spreads like hummus. They hold their shape well in soups and stews and combine nicely with rich sauces.
Adzuki beans are small and hence easier to digest. Their rich flavor pairs well with roasted roots, mashed potatoes and bitter winter greens.
Health Benefits of Fats
Fats contain carbon, hydrogen, and some oxygen. These crucial nutrients provide up to 10 kilocalories per gram of energy, compared with four kilocalories per gram from carbohydrates and proteins. Fats are not taken up directly by any tissue, but must be hydrolyzed outside the cell first. When metabolizing fats, the body must use energy, primarily from carbohydrates, to produce energy.
Fats come from food, adipocytes (fat cells), and some amino acids. Lipolysis, or fat breakdown, occurs in the mitochondria. Next, lipogenesis, or fat synthesis, takes place the liver, adipose tissue, and intestinal mucosa. The fatty acids derived from this process are essential for metabolizing carbohydrates and using them as energy.
Fat also maintains cell regulatory signals (essential to combating auto-immune conditions), supple skin, balanced hormonal function, and healthy nervous system response. Without the presence of fat in the system, the body stores carbohydrates as fat because it does not know when it will next gain this essential nutrient.
Hence, when the body is deprived of fat, it may crave carbohydrates, causing the binge response that can lead to weight gain. When we consume healthy fats, the body feels satisfied with less food. When fat is present in a meal, the brain releases endorphins to signal fullness, provide ease, and lubricate the digestive system so that it can effectively process carbohydrates and proteins.
We give ourselves strength and ease by eating small quantities of high-quality fats such as olive, sunflower and coconut oils, animal fat from poultry, eggs and fish, and hormone-free butter (Salway, J. G. Metabolism at a Glance. Malden, MA: Blackwell Science. 1999). Fats contain omega 3, omega 6, and other essential fatty acids, which soothe nerves and lubricate bones and joints. Fats support the function of hormones such as the adrenals, which maintain healthy stress response and support immunity.
Olive oil: monounsaturated and liquid at room temp., first cold press olive oil is high in anti-inflammatory polyphenols, which reduce risk of heart disease, maintain a balanced cholesterol profile, and reduce the overgrowth of ulcer-inducing helicobacter pylori bacteria in the intestines. It improves calcium levels in the blood and enhances memory function by oxygenating blood.
Sunflower oil: this polyunsaturated oil is rich in vitamin E, which stimulates the liver rejuvenation and aids in nutrient absorption; its high magnesium content soothes nerves and muscles, acts as a diuretic to counter-act water retention, and lubricates the digestive system to aid elimination.
Coconut oil: saturated fat, solid at room temperature, is a plant-based alternative to saturated animal fats. It stimulates brain function and promotes intestinal motility; its anti-bacterial benefits make it an important fat to choose during times of illness or infection and is specifically indicated for combating intestinal parasites.