March 17, 2021
Allow Spring to Awaken Your Inner Chef
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates.
By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health
The restrictions imposed by the pandemic have led many of us to get into a rut with our cooking, rotating a small repertoire of meals over and over again. Even our tried-and-true favorites can get monotonous over time. Going to restaurants is risky, and bringing in takeout can be difficult to navigate when following our dietary recommendations. Never fear; spring offers a glorious bounty of seasonal produce, presenting the perfect time to experiment in the kitchen.
Optimizing nutrition to change biochemistry is paramount for both preventing and reversing cognitive decline. With our food choices, we can create a readily usable fuel source for the “Alzheimer’s brain” that is well-documented to suffer from an insufficient energy source. Additionally, the food we eat can create critical insulin sensitivity necessary for long-term healing. Diet also provides the opportunity to reduce inflammation, upregulate immunity, promote detoxification, increase circulation, and optimize blood pressure. Choosing the right combination of foods provides raw materials for synaptic support, prevents nutrient deficiencies, and protects against muscle and bone loss associated with cognitive decline. Carefully choosing when to eat helps create a physiological process called autophagy, a type of cellular “house cleaning” that strips away worn parts, using them to create fresh new cellular components providing a powerful detoxifying and anti-aging effect. The KetoFLEX 12/3 diet harnesses all of these mechanisms and more.
By using the KetoFLEX 12/3 approach, “food as medicine” can be joyful, delicious, nurturing, and fun. Rather than focusing on the foods you can no longer eat, focus on the foods you can eat. The sheer abundance of spring produce provides the perfect opportunity to explore new flavors, combinations, and cooking techniques. Below, see some ideas for cultivating creativity in the kitchen to more fully embrace the KetoFLEX 12/3 diet and lifestyle.
• Be inspired by seasonal produce -Seasonal food is fresher, tastes better, is less expensive, and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. Buying produce from a local grower shortly after harvest is optimal. Seasonal vegetables and fruits produced locally are often fresher, as they do not require long distances for transport. Out-of-season produce must be harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to your local retail store. In contrast, local crops are picked at their peak of ripeness, offering superior flavor.
Additionally, studies have shown that vegetables and fruits contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally on their parent plant. With the influx of imported produce to our grocery stores, it can sometimes be hard to determine which produce is in season for your geographic location. Use this Seasonal Food Guide to help identify local produce at its peak freshness.
• Make spring produce the star – Once you’ve identified and sourced your local seasonal produce, celebrate it by making it the centerpiece of your plate. For example, gorgeous deep red radicchio is currently being harvested in my state. A quick search of my favorite recipe websites Epicurious, Yummly, and Tasty (to name a few!) provides a plethora of creative ideas. Rather than simply hiding the radicchio in my mixed greens, I decided to marinate it in high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, then roast it to mellow out its inherent bitterness. Sprinkled with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper and placed atop lightly dressed spring greens, it easily becomes the star of my plate.
• Don’t forget sauces, dips, marinades, and dressings – These humble accompaniments can completely change the flavor profile of your meal and make even your everyday favorite foods come to life. When combining these new enhancements with fresh spring produce, you’re sure to find a winner. One of my favorites is to combine high polyphenol EVOO, fresh rosemary, a clove of minced garlic with a pinch of sea salt in a ramekin so I can dip every bite of my food to not only enhance the flavor but also to provide additional health benefits.
• Use what you have – My new pandemic mantra — don’t waste anything — is a guiding force in my day-to-day cooking. If I’m going to risk my health by going out for food, I’m determined to use (and not throw away) the groceries that I buy. I encourage you to embrace the same challenge, which has led to some surprisingly delicious and innovative meals in my home.
- Start by taking inventory of your current ingredients. Search your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and cupboards (throw away any expired food.) Take note of fresh items that need to be used soon.
- Plan ahead and design your menu for the next several days around your perishables.
- If produce is just slightly past its peak, it can still work for soups, roasting, and stir-fries.
- If you have more fresh vegetables than you can comfortably use in a short period, cook and refrigerate some to be used in later meals. Most will keep in an air-tight container for 3 to 7 days.
- If a recipe calls for a specific ingredient that you don’t have, feel free to substitute it with something similar. Be flexible!
- Be open to unique flavor and ingredient combinations.
Each of us has an inner chef waiting to be unleashed. Celebrate KetoFLEX 12/3 and allow the inspiration of spring to awaken your creativity. Remember, food provides an opportunity to heal. It’s not only fuel but also information, nurturing, and love. Enjoy!