Winter Food Hacking

Healthful hacks to give your meals a supernatural boost.

The secret has been leaked… adding nutrient-dense ingredients, vitamins, or minerals to your regular diet can greatly increase your nutritional intake, leaving you feeling better and more alert day to day. We can learn from those who choose plant-based diets, as they have had to food hack from time to time, but it can be done for all diets and lifestyles as well without a huge impact on flavor. Try the food hacks below to enhance your everyday meals with healthy benefits.

As a rule of thumb, always consult with your physician before making changes or adding any supplements to your diet, especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Keep in mind that moderation and variety are key, as consuming too much of a particular vitamin or mineral can have side effects. When in doubt, always ask your physician or dietician before proceeding.

COFFEE: add a dash of cinnamon, ground mushrooms or ashwagandha

Recent studies point to the numerous potential health benefits of coffee beyond the caffeine.
A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine outlines some of the antioxidant benefits, including its ability to reduce inflammation and ward off diseases. Additional studies suggest that coffee drinkers, especially women, have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and a decreased risk of heart failure, colon cancer, and stroke.

Add a dash of cinnamon or any number of ground medicinal mushrooms to enhance the health benefits of your morning brew. Cinnamon is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, and ability to lower blood glucose levels, among other perks.

On the medical mushrooms front: Chaga, Lion’s Mane, and Reishi are a few popular mushrooms that can be added in powder form to your java. Chaga is touted for its antioxidant properties that fight aging and inflammation, whereas lion’s mane can improve mood and focus through its support to the nervous system. When taken regularly, it can improve cognitive function, fight against dementia, and prevent memory loss. For those who need an added dose of “chill,” Reishi powder is a natural way to destress. Said to relieve anxiety and depression while encouraging healthier sleep, Reishi also retains that quintessential bitter coffee taste for those who like a bold flavor.
And let’s not forget the adaptogen Ashwagandha! Swirl a dash of the powder form of this medicinal herb into your morning brew for anti-anxiety and stress relief.

CAULIFLOWER: add a sprinkle of Nutritional Yeast // eat raw or steamed

A cruciferous vegetable of the mustard family, cauliflower is an often-overlooked powerhouse superfood offering a lot of nutritional bang for your buck. With a mild taste and creamy texture once cooked, cauliflower is like broccoli’s long-lost cousin. High in fiber, both are dense in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Although the levels of these nutrients change slightly (broccoli is higher in vitamins C and K, whereas cauliflower is higher in vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid), cauliflower should not be underestimated for its nutritional value.

Want to jazz up your next cauliflower preparation? Give it a boost with a sprinkle of Nutritional Yeast that will add a slightly nutty, parmesan flavor and loads of nutrients. A staple in vegetarian and vegan diets, Nutritional Yeast is chalk full of nutrients on its own, with some brands even fortifying for additional benefits. A great source of thiamine, riboflavin, potassium, and zinc, Nutritional Yeast is also a complete protein, offering all nine essential amino acids. Simply sprinkle it on top of cooked cauliflower, over raw cauliflower before roasting, or bake in a cauliflower casserole.

To maintain the highest level of antioxidants and nutrients, eat cauliflower raw or steamed. Whatever method you choose, be sure not to boil cauliflower or other veggies as it will deplete the total nutritional value.

FLAXSEED: add to foods, beverages, or use as an egg substitute

Flax, also known as linseed, is one of the oldest cultivated crops that has been harvested since the beginning of civilization. The seed of the flax plant, flaxseeds come in brown and golden (yellow) and are high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans (polyestrogens). Golden flaxseeds contain a higher oil content than brown, and both are equally dense in nutrients.

Consuming flaxseeds supports healthy digestive functions as they are high in insoluble fiber, the kind that keeps you regular… With a buttery taste and subtle crunch, you can add flax to just about anything for an added nutritional boost. Try sprinkling whole or ground flaxseeds over oatmeal, cereals, yogurt, granola, soups, salads, or mix into your favorite beverage. You can also bake with flaxseeds too or use the ground version as an egg substitute. To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken. You can then sub out flax eggs for regular egs in dishes like pancakes, muffins, breads, veggie burgers, etc…

Ground flaxseed retains a higher nutritional value than whole and is easier to digest. To grind your own, simply add flax to a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor and grind away!

Leafy Greens: blend or purée and add to smoothies, mocktails

There’s an easier way to eat your greens… by drinking them. The myriad health benefits of leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard, are no secret. According to the CDC, the recommended daily intake of vegetables for adults is somewhere between 1.5 to 2 cups per day. With the hustle and bustle of modern living during a pandemic, this recommendation can certainly be hard to achieve. The USDA’s research indicates that of the U.S. adults they surveyed, on average most only get about 1.4 cups of vegetables per day.

Leafy greens contain loads of nutrients, but more are needed due to their density to meet the 2-cup threshold. One quick way to add veggies like leafy greens to your diet is to drink them, and we’re not just talking about Green Juice. Try blending leafy greens into a fruit-based smoothie or purée them as a base for a refreshing mocktail.

To blend leafy greens, simply add to a blender with a little water or ice and blend until smooth. Spinach and kale are great for blending, but also try fellow superfood broccoli. Add fresh, frozen, or steamed broccoli with fruit or other greens for a nutrient-packed treat. For those who are not a fan of broccoli’s taste, incorporate some pineapple juice to mask it. The possibilities are really endless, so be sure to sneak in some leafy greens in a beverage of choice for an added nutritional boost!

QUINOA: sub into dishes or grind into flour

A member of the amaranth family, quinoa is the edible seed of the flowering plant. Hailing from the high-altitude Peruvian Andes where over 100 varieties exist, quinoa is now grown around the world. Although white quinoa is most common, various types of quinoa can be found and all have slightly different flavor profiles, colors, and textures.

Touted for its nutritional value, quinoa is loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Golden quinoa has a firmer texture compared to some of the other varieties. Black quinoa has a sweeter, earthier flavor, whereas red quinoa has a nuttier taste. Both retain their shape well in cooking. For a more hearty, robust flavor, try toasting your quinoa before cooking as recommended. Quinoa works great as a substitute for rice, sprinkled into salads, or on its own as a stand-alone side dish.

You can also boost your baking with a blast of added nutrients by using quinoa flour in place of all-purpose flour. Making your own quinoa flour at home is simple. Start with raw quinoa (toast first for a nuttier, bolder flavor) then grind it in a blender or coffee grinder until fine. Sift the ground quinoa using a fine mesh strainer over a bowl to remove any large clumps. From here you can use it immediately or allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. Quinoa flour is delicate in flavor and works very well in pancake batters, muffin mixes, pizza crust, waffles, and cookies.

written by D. J. DiOrio
for Brooklyn Fare

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