It amazes me how, collectively across faucets, people can spend so much time focused on what goes on their body in order to look vibrant, colorful and full of life, yet may only devote a fraction of that time for what goes inside it. There is a classic line I learned while working in production planning, “garbage in, garbage out”. The phrase can definitely be applied to meal planning as well.
Living in a large city brings no shortage for the opportunity to watch people. All too often, I observe the pinball activity within in the average workday, aka the daily grind. It is not uncommon to see anxious people knocked back-forth, up-down, and sometimes down the shoot, figuratively of course. Between scarfing down Starbucks at breakfast, another cup of joe or two at the office, grab’n go at lunch, and then, finishing off with take out for dinner, it is hard to imagine how much, if any, thought went into it at all.
As practitioners, we have latched on to health promotional advice suggestive of “eating a rainbow” and I am not talking through the consumption of iconic multi-colored candies. Across epidemiologic studies, the approach is consistently favored and most likely achieved through consumption of a diet rich in plant-based foods. For my science lovers out there, I will include the citations for two reviews of the study data in the references section; Boeing, et al completed in 2012 and Wang, et al completed in 2014.
Despite this commonly accepted recommendation, it can be easy to get off balance. In fact, some colors are more commonly deficient than others. According to Dr. Deanna Minich, one of my favorite nationally recognized nutrition professionals, blue-purple is the most common deficit in human diets (2015). Although she didn’t explicitly say it, I interpret this statement to be meant for the standard American diet. Minich adds that blue-purple colored foods have certain phytonutrients critical for the brain, such as in the support of learning and memory, (2015).
Last week I hit the blue-purple lottery. Summer has seemed to take added time to arrive in the upper Midwest this year. However, our luck has finally started to change. The most recent farmers markets were filled with blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, and purple cauliflower and I noticed the super market offering US grown, organic blueberries at an in-store price. Plenty of opportunity to absorb this beautiful color category!
The blackberries, from Ellis Family Farm, more or less melted in the mouth. I paired half of them with kale and chives dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In particular, I spoiled myself by using chocolate olive oil that I picked up from the Olive Tap in Manitou Springs, Colorado while traveling.
I receive a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery from Tomato Mountain Farm in Brooklyn, Wisconsin. Despite receiving broccoli the past two weeks, I couldn’t resist at least a small cut of the purple cauliflower from Nichols Farm and Orchard that caught my eye as I dashed through Daley Plaza farmers’ market on my lunch break walk. I used it in a curry recipe.
On Saturdays, I often walk with some people in the neighborhood and we have started passing through Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. There, I picked up a small eggplant from Iron Creek Farm which I sliced and pan fried in coconut oil eating half, then saving the remainder to dice up for eggplant-cabbage-mushroom dumplings.
With the exception of the preparation that goes into the dumplings, none of these cooking/preparation methods are challenging, nor take a lot of time, and should fit into a busy lifestyle. The salad was a quick toss. I didn’t even chop the kale, just stripped the leaves from the stems and proceeded to tear apart any pieces that would be too large.
After working out a few great spice combinations, curry has become an easy go to. Simply simmer the coconut cream with the spice combo then serve over steamed vegetables. If desired, pair this with a meat option and/or layer over rice or quinoa. In this case, chopping vegetables becomes the biggest challenge and I can assure you, if that becomes your biggest challenge of the day, you have had a great day!
The sautéed eggplant may take a little finagling to figure out the proportion of oil most preferred (I used a pretty modest amount), but again, the hardest part is likely the time it takes to slice. I would guess it to take under 5 minutes.
In order to best wrap this blog post up in a pleasant conclusion, my take away of the week is to remember how vital color is for your inside. I have used blue-purple as an example, but each color category contributes its own set of unique attributes and internal benefit. The next time you stare down your closet, accessories, make-up, perfume/cologne selection, etc. figuring out how to best highlight your assets and look attractive for the day; please do remember your inner eco-system loves color too. Make your inside radiate just as much as your fashionable outer self.
 For more information on Dr. Minich’s approach to food and nutrition, be sure to check out http://www.foodandspirit.com and if you are stumbling over “phytonutrient”, WebMD has a consumer friendly write up at http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq (Metcalf, 2014).
Boeing, H., et al (2012, Sep). Critical Review: Vegetables and Fruit in the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. European Journal of Nutrition, 51, 637-663. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419346/.
Metcalf, E. (2014, Oct 29). Diet & Weight Management: Phytonutrients. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq.
Minich, D. (2015, Jan 19-26). Whole-Self Nourishment for Pain and Inflammation: A Seven Step Approach to Breakthrough Vitality [Digital slides and audio]. Retrieved from painreliefproject.com.
Wang, X., et al (2014, Jul 29). Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: Systematic Review and Dose Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. BMJ. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4490.