March 02, 2010

As we are enduring yet another round of the rainy day blues here in the Bay Area, it is not too late to think about what we can do to boost our health and immunity while we wait for Spring to come. Taking care of your heart is one of the most important ares that people neglect in the Wintertime, as we sit and sleep more and exercise less. Of course, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption helps but nutritionally you can:

-Eat more salmon which is loaded with omega-3s and antioxidants (if you are a veggie person, you can get these from flax seed as well)

-Add blueberries to your diet. The compound that makes blueberries that rich shade is called anthocyanin and it is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the structures of the entire vascular system

-Get your ruffage, like your Mama says. Consuming vegetables from the brassica group (cabbage, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts) is linked to a significantly decreased risk of stroke and heart attack.

-Lead with legumes! Researchers following 16,000 middle aged men in seven countries for 25 years found that those who ate the most beans had an 82 percent reduction in risk of death from heart disease.

-Go nuts! Five large epidemiological studies at 11 clinics show that frequent nut consumption decreases the risk of coronary heart disease. Plus nuts are just about equal in good fats, carbs for energy and protein to maintain after working out, a small handful of nuts are a great snack to get you through the afternoon slump!

-See red.......pomegranates and their juice do more than just give your heart a boost. Research suggests that long-term consumption may help to slow the aging process and protect against heart disease and cancer.

-Add supplements when your diet lags behind......Omega 3 fats should be taken on a daily basis, Flaxseed can be toasted and sprinkled over salads for a boost. Other important supplements are L-Carnitine for building muscle and magnesium, as it helps to relax the blood vessels. And for those folks who are on cholesterol-lowering (statin) medication, CoQ10 is a must, since statins deplete this important heart healthful nutrient.

Below there is a recipe for one of my family's favorite rainy day meals, which coincidentally uses three of the above ingredients. Sometimes I add ground lamb or brown rice for a one pot meal and a punch of protein to boot, but it is delicious as it is.

Kitchen Notes: For little kids or folks who prefer a less spicy version, you can omit the red pepper flakes. And of course, any dark leafy green can be substituted for the Broccoli Rabe....I just am totally hooked on the stuff!

To make a delicious vegan version, add 1 cup of brown rice, which together with the beans makes a complete protein, and can of fire roasted tomatoes. When I do this version, I use my canned-in-the summertime oven roasted tomatoes, same measurement as the chicken stock (with the tomato juice).

M'Lisa's Greens and Beans

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch or 2 cups broccoli rabe, washed, stems trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 (15- ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
3/4 cup chicken stock

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven.

Add onion and garlic. Saute until tender about 3 minutes or until golden and caramelized. Add the red pepper flakes, sea salt and pepper; stir until fragrant.

Add the broccoli rabe and let saute until it cooks down slightly.

Add the chicken stock. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes. Add the beans, cook another 10 minutes.

Serve hot with grated sharp cheese of your choice and some good crusty bread.

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