Monday, March 16, 2009
St. Patrick, greens, and Omega-3s
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
Hope you're planning a nice GREEN meal. And I'm not talking about green food coloring in your beer or mashed potatoes, I'm talking about serving leafy greens.
We KNOW that greens are incredibly good for us, but admit it, most of us don't eat enough greens! Besides the obvious benefits of fibers, vitamins and iron, antitoxins and phytochemicals, there are the Omega-3 fatty acids, which we've been hearing about more and more in recent years. Yet somehow our western (American) diet has largely selected against Omega-3. Why is that?
It wasn't until the 1980's that scientists learned the importance of Omega-3 (If you want to read about why Omega-3 are good for us, while Omega-6 are not, I recommend Susan Allport's book The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We can do to Replace them). Scientists think now that maybe what matters most is the ratio of Omega-3's to Omega-6 (in other words, getting enough Omega-3 in relation to Omega-6 may matter more than absolute amounts of Omega-3s).
So where do these Omega-dudes hide?
Our western diet depends heavily on seeds, primarily on wheat, corn and soy. Seeds are full of Omega-6. Where do you get your Omega-3? You guessed it, leafy greens (and the wild ones are especially good sources). Omega-3's are part of the photosynthetic process -- ergo, they hide in greens and algae! Seafood is a good source of Omega-3's also, but really, fish just get theirs from seaweed and algae. Green plants is where it's at!
I loved Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. Pollan tells of how nutritionism and "Food Science" have messed up repeatedly-- the more they've tried to reduce food into nutrient components, the less healthy our diet has become! They've been telling us for years to eat a lower fat diet, and we've gotten fatter and fatter. For example, first butter was deemed bad, was replaced by margarine and hydrogenated oils, and then it turns out those are worse than the butter! Ooops. More recently nutritionists have discovered the health benefits of Omega-3, yet because Omega-3 is not very stable, plant geneticists have actually been breeding against it (because we wanted food with long shelf-lives)..! OOOOPS again.
My personal pledge is to serve more GREENS.
Let there be something green on our plates every day -- make every day St. Patrick's Day!
Spinach to the rescue!!!
Go over to my other blog Borealkitchen to find recipes.
For something GREEN, here is just a small teaser of ideas that make use of generous quantities of frozen spinach (always handy to have in your freezer) -- in other words, these dishes are good places to hide large quantities of the dreaded "Spinat"!
Lasagna, pizza, calzones, quiche
Soups (esp. blended soups which have a greenish color already)
Homemade spinach pasta (yumm!)
Omelettes, "Green Eggs and Ham"
Brownies (Honeypiehorse's trick: just blend the spinach first and replace part of the butter called for, and don't breathe a word! )
I therefore propose a toast to St. Patty, whom I nominate as the patron saint of green vegetables and Omega-3's:
May you bless us with lots of greens in the coming year!