Peru is having quite a culinary moment. The United Nations declared last year, the “International Year of Quinoa”, quinoa being one of Peru’s most well known food exports. The following three posts will talk about the amazing ingredients of traditional Peruvian cuisine. You might even call them super!
Superfoods are touted as functional foods that exceed basic nutritional content. They don’t just offer macronutrients (carb, protein, fat) but contain amazing nutrients that go beyond basic nutrition. In addition to quinoa, some Peruvian superfoods (or “whole foods” as I prefer to call them) are papaya, cacao, yacón (similar to sweet potato), Ají peppers, purple potatoes and, my personal favorites: maca, pichuberries and kiwicha, commonly known as amaranth.
Peruvian Wonder #1: KIWICHA or AMARANTH
Known in the United States as amaranth or colloquially “mini quinoa”, Kiwicha is a small grain noted for its dense nutritional content, slight nutty flavor, and chewy texture. In addition, it’s known for its healing properties; to this day it is still used during Day of the Dead festivities.
This ancient grain is packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. A ½ cup serving of cooked kiwicha provides 125 kcal, 4.7 grams protein, 2 grams of healthy fat, and 2.5 grams of fiber (mostly soluble fiber).
Some other attributes worth mentioning:
- Anti-aging due to its anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant properties, specifically the high content of phenolic acids, carotenoids, flavonoids as well as an agent called squaline.
- Cardiopropertective! Studies have shown how kiwicha lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) as well as total cholesterol and triglycerides. The soluble fiber may something to do with that! It also helps manage blood pressure. Two thumbs up for heart health!
- Optimal plant protein meaning it contains all essential amino acids – specifically high in lysine, which is normally low in other grains.
- Naturally gluten-free!
How To Use Amaranth
Amaranth can be used in pilafs, added to salads and snack bars, or can be used to make granola or oatmeal (check out our very own #NYHRC RD oatmeal recipe!). You can also toast it quickly in a pan and “pop it” to a perfect consistency for breakfast cereals or energy bars. Another way of using kiwicha is by adding it to meat loaf or quick breads for a nutrition punch!
How to Store
Like most grains, I like to keep them in a cool place, usually in a mason jar or a well-sealed container.
Pomegranate Amaranth Oatmeal (4 servings)
- 1 cup uncooked amaranth
- 2½ cups unsweetened almond milk or skim milk
- 2 ripe bananas, sliced
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping
- Bring milk/milk alternative to a gentle boil in a lidded pot
- Stir in the amaranth and sliced bananas and lower the heat
- Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until grains have absorbed most of the liquid.
- Top with pomegranate arils and cinnamon. Voila!
Nutrition Facts per Serving: 267 calories, 5.5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 123 g sodium, 48 g carbohydrates, 9.5 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 8.5 g protein.
Don’t forget to check out the following posts on Peruvian Food Wonders!
Picture by John Lambert Pearson on Flickr.
Inspired by a recipe from @VerdeyRebelde, these vegan cookies are so easy to make and (almost) guilt-free. They contain no milk, no eggs, no added sugars (except for a little stevia), and are gluten-free! Best part of it all is that you are in and out of the kitchen in 40 minutes, tops.
Ingredients (to make 10-12 cookies):
- 2 ripe bananas (some black spots are required!)
- 6 heaping tablespoons of rolled oats
- 1/3 cup of coconut flakes
- 1.75 to 2 oz of dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa)
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or sesame butter (for those with allergies)
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 - 2 packets of stevia (depending on your sweet tooth!)
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- a pinch of salt
First crush the bananas with a fork. Mix in cinnamon, stevia, and baking soda. Then add nut or seed butter and mix. Start adding dry ingredients one a time- oats, coconut flakes, and lastly, the chocolate pieces. Use a spoon to scoop and make small cookie balls with your hands. Use small amount of coconut oil on a cookie tray. Cook for 22 to 25 minutes at a temperature of 325F. Enjoy!
Calories per cookie: 90 (no added sugars!)
Happy Saturday baking! Yum.
In May I wrote a post on Gluten-Free Living and whether or not a gluten-free diet was for everyone. In that piece, I concluded that people fall into one of three groups. The first group consists of those diagnosed with celiac disease; they have no choice but to live a gluten-free life. The second group includes people who do not warrant a celiac disease diagnosis, but they do experience gluten-sensitive symptoms, such as digestive distress (constipation, diarrhea, bloating, fullness), brain fog, skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, poor circulation / dark circles), exacerbated asthma, joint pain and endocrine issues, such as thyroid disorders or even infertility. This group experiences positive results once off gluten. The third group experiences no noticeable difference on a gluten-free diet.
I believe that nothing beats first-hand experience, because the truth is that your body knows best. After multiple people asked me whether or not they should cut gluten from their diet, I decided it was time to try a gluten-free diet for myself. I had already heard first-hand how positively people were affected by going gluten-free. One person’s health improved so drastically that she stopped needing hypothyroid meds, while another became 100% joint-pain free. It all sounded too good to be true.
The only way to really know if a certain dietary restriction will help you is to give it a try, and so I began my research. In the past century, “modern wheat” has been genetically manipulated to increase the proportion of gluten as a result of hybridization. Therefore, our exposure is much higher than normal, a change discussed in the well-known book Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis. While this book was a fascinating read, it is one thing to know the theory and quite another to understand the challenges of avoiding what I call the “W-BRO grains” (wheat, barley, rye, and most oats).
In reality, the half-life of gluten antibodies is typically 3–4 months. That’s about how long it takes to get gluten out of your system, barring variables such as health, previous gluten exposure, digestion and hydration (constipation and dehydration make matters worse) and food allergies. I opted for the crash course, a “Two-Week Gluten-Free Experiment.” For moral support and out of curiosity, both my husband and coworker followed the diet with me.
I cooked. As I wasn’t going to be able to eat my go-to granola cereal as a snack, I made a huge batch of homemade granola with gluten-free oats. I stocked up on Greek yogurt and made hard-boiled eggs with fruit for breakfast. I cooked a huge batch of brown rice and amaranth with beans and vegetables. I rediscovered quesadillas (made with corn tortillas, naturally!). I also made a huge pot of zucchini/carrot/Serrano soup (pictured) for dinner. And luckily for me, my upstairs neighbor, owner of Pitanga Juice, baked us a delicious loaf of gluten-free bread.
No One Said Change Is Easy
I won’t sugarcoat it—the first few days were rough. My energy level was way down and I had trouble concentrating. However, by the third day the sluggishness was gone. I was waking up easier and my stomach was flatter and less bloated. When I got on the scale, I had lost three pounds without even trying! Granted, starchy carbs retain much more water, so it was probably just water weight. But the most noticeable change was that my under-eye circles disappeared! And my husband, who has mild psoriasis, was practically cured—no itchiness or redness. My coworker experienced better digestion, improved mood and more patience. Wow!
Over the course of the two weeks, I discovered that the most random foods have gluten, like my sugar-free Altoids and a lot of restaurant dishes. It turns out that light breading and soy sauce are in almost everything. The lesson: always ask if a dish includes gluten, never assume. I went to a baby shower without planning ahead and gluten-free options were slim pickings so I resigned myself to a dinner of salad and wine— not good! Always be prepared.
The Take Away
While I had a fairly positive experience, the positive effects waned after the first week. I would classify myself as a member of the third group and am not severely affected by gluten. And truth be told, I missed my favorite meal of 10-grain bread with turkey, avocado and sprouts. Yum!
Much to my surprise…
- I can do without crackers and table bread—even if it is whole grain.
- Beer definitely bloats.
- I should be more creative with grains!
- A lot of gluten-free alternatives are very low in fiber (since so many have rice) and therefore fiber intake should be increased from other sources (seeds, veggies, fruits and other grains).
- I have since started eating gluten again, but in much smaller amounts.
- After the dramatic improvements in their health, my coworker and husband have decided to maintain a mostly gluten-free diet.
We should not eat too much of one thing. Variety is essential. ALWAYS listen to your body.
Have you tried going gluten-free?
Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD.
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
Pictured: lamb / beef meatballs with capers, jasmine rice with almonds and root vegetable salad (beets, fennel, carrots and zucchini). Recipes made / adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi.
Edited by TCabrarr
Celiac disease is no joke. About 1% of the population has celiac disease and some experts believe that up to 10% of people have gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which one cannot digest gluten, a waxy protein, found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats. An easy acronym to remember is: “W-BRO.”
While celiac disease can’t be cured, its symptoms can be controlled through a gluten-free diet. If one does not completely avoid gluten, the autoimmune response damages the small intestine, which slowly loses the ability to absorb the nutrients in food and can cause long-term malnutrition and other complications. Some symptoms include stomach discomfort or pain, bloating, pale, foul-smelling stools, unintentional weight loss and fatigue.
If you don’t have celiac disease, wheat is not inherently bad for you. However many people have adopted a gluten-free diet, swearing it helps with weight loss. Many products made with wheat can be low in nutrition or just plain bad for you. Eliminating them from your diet may indeed result in weight loss. But rather than restricting your diet so severely, make healthier choices. Opt for whole grains and limit your cookie and pastry intake.
Whole grains have been a staple of the human diet since early civilizations. Asia and India are known for their rice, United States for its corn and South America for its quinoa. Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, dietary fiber, iron, vitamin E and B-complex vitamins. In addition, their high fiber content helps slow down digestion and consequently provides long-lasting energy.
Below are a few gluten-free grains that taste great, are incredibly versatile and have a high nutrient content:
- Rice (wild or brown)
- Buckwheat (aka Kasha)
Do you think you may be sensitive to gluten? An elimination diet can help you identify specific food sensitivities that trigger digestive discomfort. Eliminate wheat for two to three weeks and note whether your symptoms resolve. Gradually reintroduce wheat back into your diet, preferably under the supervision of a health care provider who can help monitor your symptoms.
What should you do when eating out?
- Plan ahead and look up the menu beforehand to review your options.
- New York restaurants are catering more and more to gluten-free diners, so feel free to ask your server about gluten-free menu items.
- Ask for dressings and sauces on the side, or skip them completely. Vinaigrette is usually a safe gluten-free option.
- Stay away from breaded appetizers and entrées as well as fried foods which may have been fried with gluten.
- Remember, wheat free does NOT mean gluten free!
During celiac awareness month, learn more about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet from reliable sources:
Celiac Disease Foundation
Gluten Intolerance Group of North America - contains guides to restaurants serving gluten free foods, gluten free brands
Gluten Free Mall - an online source for gluten free foods
Gluten Free Living - a magazine dedicated to living a gluten-free life
Gluten Free Drugs - a list of medications that contain gluten
Celiac Sprue Association
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD
Photo courtesy of Andrea Nguyen on Flickr
Edited by TCabrarr