Saturday, May 26, 2012

Healthy Grilling-- Yep, It Can Be Done!

Think your backyard barbeque needs to be all about hot dogs and hamburgers?  Heck no, sez me!  Here are some healthy, yummy, and guest-approved things I like to throw on the grill.

1)  Portobello Mushrooms!!!  I like to marinate them in EVOO or avocado oil, herbs, and balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes I do tamarind, lemon juice, lime juice, or something along those lines in place of the vinegar.  I eat them bun-free, but these go great with an Ezekiel sprouted hamburger bun and all the trimmings (see my note on all the trimmings at the end of this post).  Here are nutritional facts on Portobellos.

2)  Asparagus.  Make sure you buy thin stalks-- the thick ones get woody and fibrous.  They don't take long to cook at all.  I usually baste them with avocado oil, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper.   Here's the skinny on asparagus.

3)  Veggie kabobs.  So easy to make, and fun for kids to thread, too.  :)  I like to thread cherry tomatoes, bell pepper (all colors) cut into big chunks, zucchini and other summer squash, chunks of pineapple, chunks of mango, and smaller mushrooms, baste them in avocado oil and soy sauce and maybe a touch of apricot all-fruit preserves, and add a little salt and pepper.

4) Watermelon!!  Heck yeah, watermelon!!  It's awesome on the grill.  Throw it on an Ezekiel bun with some lettuce and tomato, and you'll have a grilled watermelon burger.  Throw it in a salad, and you'll have a grilled watermelon salad.  Absolutely awesome.  Here's what your body gets from watermelon.

5)  Speaking of salad, grilled salad is awesome.  Cut a head of lettuce in half (try a darker lettuce like Romaine-- iceberg doesn't have a whole lot of nutritional value), brush with avocado oil, salt, and pepper, and put in a bowl with balsamic and EVOO, chopped strawberries, and whatever herbs you like.  Here's a nice recipe for grilled radicchio salad-- I'd personally do it without the cheese, since I don't eat dairy.

In this grilled salad, I did cabbage, radicchio, and Romaine, and put a balsamic reduction on top.  I finished it off with a dash of Parma! (a vegan parmesan substitute that is essentially ground walnuts with a little sea salt)

5)  Sweet potatoes!  Parboil them first, and cut them into wedges.  You can squeeze some lime, drizzle on avocado oil, sprinkle some chili on them, and add a little salt and pepper.  Absolutely delicious.

6)  Cabbage!  You can make a foil packet of cabbage wedges, onion slices, bell pepper slices, a drizzle of avocado oil (or a bit of butter if you go that route), some salt and some pepper, and throw that on the grill for 10 min or so.
Now, it's always important to be safe and use a condiment.

(I'll wait a minute for you guys to laugh at that hilarious joke.)

The thing is, most condiments have nasty ingredients like High Fructose Corn syrup and other added sugars.  And you know how I feel about that.  (If not:  I don't like it.)  Make sure you READ YOUR INGREDIENTS, even when it comes to condiments.  I have found low- and no- sugar-added organic ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard, and relish online and at Whole Foods.  You can even make your own ketchup (you can sub in stevia or erythritol for honey) and BBQ sauce pretty easily!   

Got any other healthy ideas for the grill?  Post 'em here, and have a great weekend!  :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Oily Situation, Part 3: Canola Oil

Aah, Canola Oil.  It's been demonized all over the place.  But does it live up to its evil reputation?

The name "Canola" comes from CANadian Oil, Low Acid.  The oil is derived from rapeseed (a much nicer seed than its name lets on), which contains high amounts of eurcic acid, which is toxic to humans.  Canola oil is made from seeds that have been cultivated to have a much lower percentage of this acid, however.  Canola oil is not allowed to contain more than 2% eurcic acid, a level considered safe for human consumption.

Here is the good about Canola:  its Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is quite good.  Let's talk a little bit about what this means. 

Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to the diet, as the body can't manufacture them on its own (this is what is meant by an "essential fatty acid," or EFA).  The shortest-chain Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid, is used in the body to synthesize arachidonic acid, another Omega-6 acid, which is necessary for the formation of prostaglandins.  Prostaglandins are sort of like hormones.  They are messengers which, among other things, are essential in the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle tissue (e.g. your organs).  So cutting Omega-6 acids out of the diet would not be very smart. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are also EFA's.  They are necessary in order for the nervous system to function properly and healthy DNA to be produced.  They appear to reduce inflammation in the body, which leads to reduction in heart disease risk, anticancer properties, and help with a host of other diseases. 

The problem is that Omega-6 acids are really, really easy to get in the diet, particularly when people eat processed food.  Soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower, sunflower, and "vegetable oil" have really high Omega-6:Omega-3 fatty acids-- some as much as 200:1!  Even if you're super-heath conscious, you can get a surprising amount of Omega-6 fatty acids in your diet-- a lot of packaged health foods are coated with a very thin layer of vegetable oil to enhance appearance, texture, and taste.  Plus, all nuts have a high Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio (the lowest ratio is English walnuts, at 4:1; the highest is peanuts, at 5500:1!)  The average American gets a ratio of about 15:1 Omega-6:Omega-3.  The problem with this is that this imbalance is connected with a much higher mortality rate, more disease, and a bunch of other un-fun health problems.

Now, back to the subject at hand.  Canola oil is, indeed, great as far as Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio is concerned (about a 1:2.2 ratio).  For this reason, it is a healthy oil.  That having been said, here's my gripe:

Currently, 80% of the rapeseed plants grown for canola manufacture is genetically modified (GMO) by the Monsanto company. If you know me, you know I have major, major problems with Monsanto and anything coming from them.  (If you'd like a small example of why, read here.  I don't normally use Wikipedia as a source, but this particular article has a good summary of the cases against Monsanto.)

That having been said, there is now a certified non-GMO company called Viterra making non-GMO, non-hexane Canola oil.  I've not seen this company's product in the stores I shop in, so I'm not sure if it's local to Canada or not, but I will do more research on this.  If you've seen it around in the USA, let me know. 

In sum:  Canola oil can be a good thing if it's produced without hexane and isn't genetically modified.  Unrefined canola has a smoke point of 225 degrees Farenheit, but refined, it smokes at 400 degrees Farenheit.  Viterra, at first glance, seems to use a non-chemical refining process of some kind, so this is worth looking into further. 

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!