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Asparagus – Worthy of Royalty

Asparagus season

Queen Nefertiti proclaimed it to be the food of the Gods, King Louis XIV dubbed it the “king of vegetables” and a European museum is dedicated solely to it… yep we are talking ASPARAGUS! Asparagus has been cultivated for millennia. The tender immature perennial shoots or spears typically pop up around mid-May to mid-June in WI and are a delicacy not to be missed!
Aside from their delicious taste, asparagus is loaded with nutrients – six fresh cooked asparagus spears contain 1 g dietary fiber, 490 IU vitamin A, 10 mg vitamin C and 131 mcg Folate and just 27 calories per cup. Asparagus is high in antioxidants helping slow down the aging process and the minerals and amino acids it contains help protect the liver against toxins.
Fresh asparagus spears should be firm to the touch, straight and unbendable (firm but tender) and the tips should be tightly closed and a dark green or purple color. White asparagus is the same as green except it has not been exposed to sunlight.  To store, trim a half an inch from the ends of unwashed asparagus and stand them in a jar with an inch of cold water covered in the refrigerator or wrap ends in a wet paper towel and put in a plastic bag in the veggie drawer of the refrigerator for longer storage time.

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Asparagus pairs well with many vegetables like mushrooms & especially seasonal morels, and other foods like eggs, salmon and hollandaise sauce. Asparagus should be lightly cooked, steamed, or roasted for best flavor and texture. Brush some olive oil on tender spears and throw them on the grill until crisp tender. Raw stalks can be thinly shaved into a salad, add some cherry tomatoes, Feta and vinaigrette. Try asparagus wrapped in prosciutto for an appetizer or side dish.
Most of us have heard of “asparagus pee” the peculiar smell that urine takes on after consuming asparagus. In actuality, only 25% of us have a specific gene that enables us to detect the smell. Apparently my Husband and I both have that gene!
Fresh local asparagus is one of the first spring vegetables available and only around for a few short weeks so head to your farmers market or favorite store before it’s all gone!

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Pass the asparagus please!

Cynthia Hill, NTP

Prairie Hill Nutrition

 

 

 

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Grilling, Health, Health Food, Healthy, Healthy Fats, Holistic, Meat, Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy, Organic, Summer, Vegetables, Wellness

To Grill or Grill Not…

Beef steak with grilled vegetables

By Cynthia Hill, NTP

As the first hint of summer makes its slow arrival in the Midwest,  I step outside late afternoon to enjoy the warming temps.  Immediately I begin to smell the most wonderful intoxicating scent.  It takes my brain a moment to identify what it is – oh yes! someone in the neighborhood has fired up their grill  – the  unmistakable smoky aroma of backyard grilling, summer and happiness! I realize momentarily how I have missed the smell & taste of grilled foods throughout the long winter months. Now this tantalizing scent beckons me, beckons me to release our own grill from its winter cover and  start planning a meal around it.   But wait… isn’t grilling food bad for you???

Grilling in general and especially grilled meat has had its share of bad press lately.  With the onset of warmer weather the warnings about the dangers of grilling and barbecuing return, and how doing so contributes to the formation of carcinogens (PAHs) and mutagens (HCA) in our food.

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are present in the smoke created from fat dripping onto hot coals.  Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when amino acids, sugars and creatine in meat react with heat.  Does grilling generate enough of these carcinogenic compounds to pose a threat to our health and steer clear of the grill forever?  Mark Sisson, primal living expert, and author of the Primal Blueprint writes he may have “overstated the danger of the carcinogenic compounds found in charred meat”.  In his article “How Bad is Charred Meat, Really?”  he references numerous studies that show the doses of HCA in animal testing to be 1000s of times higher than what we would get from grilling. (The National Cancer Institute also suggests that both HCA and PAH dosing in animal models is thousands of times higher than what we would consume in our diet).

Author Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, “The Naughty Nutritionist” states “it’s a myth that HCAs are mostly found in fried or grilled beef, poultry and fish.”  Her post “Barbecue Meat a Safer Choice than Packaged Protein Foods” explains why we are more likely to get more carcinogenic HCAs from processed and fast foods than from the grill.

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This leaves me with a burning question from an ancestral point of view – man has been grilling for a very very long time.  If it is so bad for us, why do the carcinogenic effects only appear to have happened in the last 150 years?  We must consider our current diet of high PUFAs, processed foods, grain fed animals and environmental toxicity as contributing factors.

Would I eat grilled foods every day? probably not as with most things moderation is key. I will continue though, to eat a cancer fighting nutrient dense whole foods diet (including plenty of protective vegetables) that supports optimal health and immune function which is always our best defense!

The following suggestions from the The National Cancer Institute may reduce HCA and PAH formation while grilling:

  • Avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface and avoiding prolonged cooking times (especially at high temps) can redue HCA and PHA formation.
  • Continuously turning meat over on a high heat source can substantially reduce HCA formation compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often.
  • Removing charred portions of meat and refraining from using gravy made from meat drippings.

 

Trimming the fat, and using marinades with herbs/spices and an acid component  like vinegar or citrus offers protection also.

Avoid overcooking and processed meats as they already contain cancer causing preservative substances.

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So will I be firing up the grill this Summer?  You betcha!

 

Sincerely in Health,

Cynthia

 

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