Q: Hi Dahlia. We need some recipes for diabetics and people with hypertension. Thanks a lot.
A: Hey Tante Mona! It’s great to hear from you! Thank you for your interest and continued support of Live Deliciously Pardon my delayed reply to your question, it has been a busy couple of weeks with LD events in DC.
Tante, do you mind if I explain our connection to our other readers first before getting into your question?
For those of you readers not in my family, well, that’s most of you, Tante Mona is my mom’s first cousin in Cairo. Her father, Uncle Mohammed, is my grandmother Mama’s Wagida’s brother. And I’m so thrilled the keep this connection to my roots, and spread the inspiration for healthy lifestyle, a passion I inherited from my mama, back to my ancestral home.
Ok… so back to your question Tante Mona.
No recipes…. A Formula
As you’ve noticed, recipes are not really a part of my teaching method on nutrition & lifestyle. And that’s intentional.
I offer the formula, so people can get into a sustainable, self-motivated and creative rhythm around meal preparation.
Recipes in and of themselves can be overwhelming to many people for three major reasons:
- Motivation. If folks don’t have all the ingredients for a recipe they saw online, they may become discouraged to try cooking a healthy meal altogether.
- Convenience. Most people come home from work and the last thing they want to do is cook for an hour or more using a recipe. Instead they may opt for more convenient, less healthy options. Packaged food, take out…
- Budget. If people shop for ingredients recipe-to-recipe it can get quite expensive and wasteful. A client recently told me about her experience shopping for exact ingredients for particular recipes that costs her $45 per trip. And when leftover ingredients don’t get used, it leads to food waste.
The formula is designed to help people:
- Create a strategic rhythm behind shopping for fresh produce and pantry items, based on what is seasonally available, personal tastes and preferences.
- Prepare meals within 5-20 minutes using those fresh, seasonal ingredients and pantry items.
- Reduce food waste. The method programs a functional, minimalist kitchen for the home chef that is exciting to work with, creating healthy, vibrant meals based on what they have on hand.
Plus Tante, the formula reminds me of the way mom, Nanny, and other women in the family have taught me to cook as soon as I was old enough to follow them around the kitchen. Precision is boring. Creativity and intuition in meal preparation is natural and exciting.
Essentials of the Formula
The formula is designed to help people get in as many dark leafy greens and nutrient-dense sources of fiber from whole grains and beans into their diet as possible. These foods – dark leafy greens and fiber-rich foods, are the #1 foods missing from the Standard American Diet, now exported to the rest of the world.
And it is the absence of these foods I believe that has led to the rise of chronic, preventable diseases like diabetes and cardiac disease (for which hypertension or high blood pressure can be a precursor).
Greens are crucial in the formula because they strengthen the blood and respiratory system. As we know from biology, chlorophyll is the green pigment present in plants that stores oxygen in its fibers. Everytime we enjoy green vegetables and especially dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, molokheya (!), broccoli, dandelion greens (in hindbeh), parsley (in tabbouleh), it’s like our entire body taking a deep breath of fresh air. Living, breathing oxygen into the bloodstream.
Our bodies love oxygen. It’s a lifeforce that keeps us healthy and vibrant.
Chronic diseases thrive in environments of oxidative stress, where our systems are inflamed with poor flow of oxygen and increased levels of acidity. That’s why we hear the buzz word ‘antioxidant’ describing fresh fruits and veggies as a key for preventing diseases.
Eat as many dark leafy greens as humanly possible. Seriously. I personally try for one dark leafy green per meal. To start, I recommend clients get in one dark leafy green a day.
Unrefined Plant-Based Fiber from Veggies, Grains and Beans
Fiber is critical to our functional health. That is to say, the ability of our vital organs and especially the digestive system to properly function. Digestive health, the ability of our bodies to effectively absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins, is *EVERYTHING* when it comes to our health.
When thinking about high quality fiber, look at unrefined, plant-based sources like grains, beans, and vegetables. Especially dark leafy greens and root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots.
There are two major reasons it is critical to get in unrefined, plant-based fiber into your everyday diet.
- Fiber modulates the absorption of nutrients into the digestive tract, slowing down the process for more effective absorption. Most nutrient absorption happens in the small intestines, well into the digestive process… for most of us, perhaps an hour after eating. Eating diets rich in fiber helps slow down the absorption of nutrients into the digestive tract by keeping nutrients attached to fiber longer. In other words, by the time our food gets to the small intestines, those nutrients are still bioavailable for absorption.
- Fiber feeds the microflora or healthy bacteria in your gut. Unrefined plant-based fiber from veggies, whole grains, and beans feed good bacteria that promotes healthy digestive rhythm. Instead of relying on probiotic supplements, it may better serve you over time to naturally FEED healthy bacteria with healthy high-fiber food
Beans and grains by themselves might be quite boring but when you use the formula, you can make something pretty magical adding dark leafy greens.
Perhaps seasonal veggies. Perhaps embellishments of cheese and fruit.
Adorned with Sprinkles of spices, nuts, and seeds. Squeezes of citrus and Swirls of oils, vinegars, and honey to create something pretty exciting with what you already have on hand…
What makes Fiber Unrefined?
A lot of folks rely on refined food products like cereals, pastas, breads, snack bars to get in their daily requirements for fiber. This is an unfortunate by-product of a big-food industry that relies on training you out of your nutritional intuition.
When you think of whole grains, think of actual kernels of grain that have the natural bran intact. It is the bran that holds the grain’s nutrients and fiber. This means whole grain breads and other products don’t count.
The Glycemic Index, Blood Sugar, & Nutrient Absorption
Choose solid, slow burning carbs for energy throughout the day so you will not need to snack.
The Glycemic index is a tool nutritionists use to explain how certain carbohydrates affect our blood sugar levels and nutrient absorption.
For example, Low Glycemic Index foods like brown rice and other whole grains are unrefined sources of fiber that provide stable, slow burning energy throughout the day.
High Glycemic Index foods like rice cakes that are refined and contain little or no fiber, will spike blood sugar upon consumption and crash energy levels, creating a vicious cycle of craving more and more sugary, refined foods.
When a grain has the fiber stripped off… say in the case of white rice, that grain is essentially reduced into a simple carbohydrate that is metabolized in the body in the same way that sugar would be… increasing insulin resistance and fat storage.
Skip the Juices and Smoothies…
So much of what makes a fruit so healthy is the fiber that is attached to it.
Source: Rosanna Davison Nutrition
The minute the at fiber in a fruit is emulsified, refined, or stripped away in the process of making a juice or a smoothie, the sugars from that fruit become a simple carbohydrate or sugar metabolized in the body in the same way that simple sugar would be… increasing insulin resistance and fat storage.
Despite what the Detox Diet Industry has sold you, Juices and Smoothies are NOT your friends in creating a healthy lifestyle and can and WILL create elevated levels of insulin resistance. The sugars from juice and smoothies spike blood sugar- thus the burst of energy most people experience – and leave you sugar logged.
Additionally, and I can’t say this enough. You are not simply what you eat but what you absorb. Most nutrient absorption happens in the small intestines, well into the digestive process… for most of us, perhaps an hour after eating. Which means the nutrients in fruits and veggies are lost when they are stripped from the fiber in the process of making juice or smoothies.
And Finally, Mind your Stress
Stress Hormones like cortisol not only increase storage of belly fat, but increase oxidative stress in the body making us more prone to chronic illness and disease.
The core. The Enteric Nervous System… Our digestive systems are highly emotional. They need to be in a calm relaxed state to effectively do their jobs. That is to say, to reach optimal digestive function and fully absorb nutrients and eliminate waste.
If you, or I, or we… each and every one of us don’t take time – (like, seriously, schedule time) ideally the same time every day to calm down and transform stress, our digestive systems won’t be at ease. And kinda won’t stand chance in full absorption of nutrients. Whether those nutrients are from supplements or food.
And even if it’s not exactly the same time everyday, but perhaps a ritual or a sequence of routines each day, we need to carve out time to calm down and transform stress..
Tante, some people find prayer or spiritual practice like meditation helpful for creating meaningful connection and managing stress.
Or connection with family and community. Or with our creative power. Or nature.
Meaningful connection is where we feel tapped into an awareness or state of being greater than ourselves. It’s ultimately connection that offers vitality, optimal health, and fuels healthy rhythm.