Wheatgrass 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Let food be thy medicine! Here at The Naturopathic Kitchen we embrace the healing power of nature by focusing on the healing power of our favorite culinary herbs and food. Today we look into wheatgrass and what it can offer our health!

Wheatgrass101

Most people know of wheatgrass as a shot at a juice bar. This practice has actually been popular for much of the last century and, with the organic movement, has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Its high concentration of chlorophyll provides a deep green color which has earned it the nickname “Green Blood.” With chlorophyll’s structural similarity to hemoglobin, it is aptly named!

Where does wheatgrass come from? Where can I find it?

Use of wheatgrass dates back to the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations over 5000 years ago. However, it only gained popularity in Western civilization in the 1930s when a chemist named Charles F. Schnabel experimented with fresh-cut wheatgrass to nurse dying chickens back to health. The hens not only recovered, but they produced eggs at a faster rate. After this discovery, Schnabel began spreading the word about the health benefits of wheatgrass to the public. Since then, it has remained firmly in the “superfood” category with additional research showing it safe in human populations.

Today, wheatgrass can be found in smoothie and juice bars. Since the benefits come from drinking juiced wheatgrass, it is best to juice or consume the wheatgrass immediately after it is harvested. This leaves only a few options for truly obtaining the benefits of wheatgrass: buying a shot from a juice bar or growing your own and juicing it yourself. Luckily, wheatgrass seeds are easy to come by online or in health food stores. They are even easier to grow. Wheatgrass is also available in the form of powders, capsules, and tablets.

How does wheatgrass help my health?

For a grass, wheatgrass is relatively high in protein and contains 19 amino acids, making it just 2 amino acids short of complete protein. It is also a great source of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, electrolytes and antioxidants. Due to the high presence of chlorophyll which contains thylakoids, wheatgrass has been shown to help decrease feelings of hunger after a high-carb meal and lead to weight loss.1  Research has also shown that wheatgrass is a good adjunct to chemotherapy, increasing effectiveness and reducing side effects.2  

What medical conditions/symptoms is wheatgrass used for?

When should wheatgrass be avoided?

Wheatgrass can cause nausea, loss of appetite, and constipation but is otherwise very safe and has a long track record of use. Since it can lower blood sugar, it is best to monitor blood sugar levels if taking insulin for diabetes. It should also be avoided in populations allergic to wheat and gluten.

 

Let’s try out some tasty wheatgrass recipes!

Blueberry Banana Wheatgrass Smoothie

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 T Chia seeds (pre-soaked)
  • 1 c organic spinach
  • 1 c almond milk
  • ½ c organic banana
  • ½ c organic blueberries
  • 1 T wheat grass

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Place all ingredients in a blender jar and blend until smooth.

Thank you to Easy Healthy Smoothie for this recipe!

 

 

Easy Wheatgrass Shots

 

INGREDIENTS

• Fresh wheatgrass (enough for a couple large handfuls)
• 1/2 c coconut water

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Put a couple handfuls of fresh wheatgrass and the coconut water into a blender. Blend on high until liquefied.
  2. Hold a nut milk bag over a large bowl and pour the mixture into the bag.
  3. Squeeze the bag until the pulp inside looks like a light green floss. Throw out the floss.
  4. Pour the green liquid evenly into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Enjoy by allowing a frozen cube to melt in a shot glass or add to a smoothie!

Thank you to Wild Remedies for this recipe!

 

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Kale 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen! Each week we go back to the basics to use food as medicine in order to lead healthier lives. It can be intimidating to try new things especially when you don’t know what it is good for you or how to prepare/cook it. Today we’ll be discussing the ever-popular kale!

Kale 101

If there ever was a mascot for the healthy eating movement it would be kale. This curly dark-green vegetable has gotten quite the reputation as being the super food of superfoods. Coming from the brassica family, it is closely related to wild cabbage and has many of the same health benefits as other brassica family vegetables like broccoli, mustard greens, and cabbage.

Where does kale come from? Where can I find it?

Kale originated in the eastern Mediterranean and has been cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses for over 4000 years. In ancient Rome, kale was commonly used to treat bowel ailments. Because kale is so hardy and easy to grow, it has been an important dietary staple during difficult times. It wasn’t too long ago that kale could only be found at specialty food stores, co-ops, and farmer’s markets. But with the health food movement, kale has made its way into most major grocery stores. Kale is most easily found in the fresh produce section but can also be found in the snack aisle in the form of dried kale chips. It is important to note that kale is often on the dirty dozen list, so it is best to get organic kale when possible.

How does kale help my health?

Not only is kale loaded with nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, magnesium, and calcium, it is also rich in glucosinolates which aid in detoxification at the cellular level. This makes kale and other brassica family vegetables a viable way to help our bodies process and eliminate many of the harmful pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals that we are exposed to in modern society.1 Studies have shown that certain nutrients are more bio-available when consumed steamed rather than raw or boiled2 though the antioxidants can break down during the cooking process. So, a balanced diet including raw and cooked forms of kale is ideal.

What medical conditions/symptoms is kale used for?

When should kale be avoided?

Kale and other brassica family vegetables contain compounds that are capable of blocking iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. This can cause the thyroid gland to grow in size to try to compensate. Because of this goitrogenic effect, it is best to consume kale in moderation and in even smaller amounts in those with hypothyroidism. However, cooking dramatically reduces this effect.

 

Let’s try out kale with these tasty recipes!

 

Roasty Toasty Beets and Kale Salad

 

INGREDIENTS

3 medium beets (about 3 inches in diameter)
1⁄2 large yellow onion, cut in half
2 t extra-virgin olive oil to taste
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1⁄4 c crumbled goat cheese
1 bunch organic kale
1⁄8 t sea salt
4 T balsamic vinegar

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash beets and trim ends. Reserve beet greens for salad. Slice beets crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Spread beets and onions in a single layer in two 9x13-inch baking pans. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Wash and de-stem kale. Cut kale in ribbons to desired thickness and place in medium bowl. Sprinkle kale with sea salt. Massage kale until moist and tender. Cut beat greens to similar thickness.

Plate kale and greens; top with slightly cooled beets and onions. Sprinkle goat cheese atop. Drizzle vinegar evenly over salad. Serve warm or chilled.

 

Thank you to Bastyr University for this recipe!

 

 

Baked Kale Chips

 

INGREDIENTS

1-2 bunches of Lacinato/Italian Kale
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 T coconut or olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Cayenne pepper (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wash and pat dry the kale. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using olive oil).
  2. Peel kale leaves away from thick stems and put in a bowl.
  3. Add oil, garlic and salt and other seasoning and toss well or massage by hand.  Spread out kale on baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until kale is slightly crispy around the edges.

 

Thank you to NUNM’s Food as Medicine Institute for this recipe!  

 

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Apple Cider Vinegar 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Maybe you’re just starting your culinary health journey or just looking for a few extra cooking tips. Whatever brings you here, welcome to The Naturopathic Kitchen! Each week we explore a new herb or food that packs surprising health benefits that you can incorporate into your daily meals. Whether you’re a novice or cooking expert, we’re sure you’ll find some interesting tips that will stimulate your appetite for health! Today we take a taste of apple cider vinegar.

Apple Cider Vinegar 101

While apple cider vinegar (ACV) doesn’t typically come to mind for ingredients to use in the kitchen, it can provide very valuable and useful health boosts. ACV is made from the fermentation of apple juice, and just as with many other fermented foods, it is considered a probiotic. Common uses include aiding in digestion, topically for skin care, as a household cleaner, a gargle for sore throats, a trap for fruit flies, and even as a hair rinse and dandruff treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the history and health benefits of this versatile liquid.

Where does ACV come from? Where can I find it?

Fermenting fruit juices into alcohols and vinegars is one of the oldest human culinary practices and has been around for probably as long has humans have been able to hold liquids in a container. Earliest records date wine vinegar to over 7000 years ago. The first documented uses of fermenting apples into wine started with the Aryans in 2500 BCE. This method eventually made its way to the ancient Greek and Romans who advanced the process into apple cider vinegar. Since ancient times, ACV has been a staple in traditional medicine.

Today, ACV can be found in almost any store where other vinegars are sold. With the advent of internet shopping it can also be easily purchased online. Since apples are often on the dirty dozen list, it is best to find ACV that is certified organic. ACV comes in several varieties based on processing methods: unfiltered, filtered, pasteurized, raw, and double strength. Unfiltered and raw are best for ingesting, while filtered products are best for household cleaning or hair rinses. Pasteurizing involves heating the ACV to temperature high enough to kill any bad bacteria present, but it also cleanses the ACV of beneficial bacteria as well. Double strength means it is twice as acidic. This variety is more expensive and harder to ingest without first diluting with water. ACV also gets more acidic as it ages.

How does ACV help my health?

ACV’s health benefits come from the presence of several different acids that are produced by probiotic bacteria during the fermentation process. Citric acid, succinic acid, and acetic acid have all shown to impact the body in positive ways, both internally and externally. Many of ACV’s historical uses have been support by science including its blood glucose, insulin, and lipid lowering capabilities.1 Research has also demonstrated ACV to be effective at lowering blood pressure as well as preventing bacterial food poisoning.2,3

What is ACV used for?

When should ACV be avoided?

Even with all of ACV’s health benefits, it is still an acid and therefore best diluted in warm water. Care should be taken with diabetes since ACV can lower blood sugar. Large amounts of ACV can lower blood potassium levels, so it shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts in those taking insulin or non-potassium sparing diuretics (water pills) or in patients with a history of kidney disease.

 

Let’s try out apple cider vinegar with some helpful recipes!

Natural Sore Throat Tea

 

INGREDIENTS

1 c hot water
2 T lemon juice
1 T honey
1 T apple cider vinegar
1t cinnamon

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat water. Stir in remaining ingredients and enjoy!

 


 

Traditional Fire Cider

Traditional Fire Ciders are a specific type of oxymel, an ancient medicine that combines herbs with the soothing combination of vinegar and honey. It is believed this spiced-up version first was named Fire Cider by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, who adds garlic, onion, horseradish, turmeric and pepper to the blend to kick-start immunity. From there, recipes for Traditional Fire Ciders are often adapted regionally depending on local herbs, culture or family tradition. The below recipe is adapted by Crystal Hamby, a faculty member in the Department of Botanical Medicine at Bastyr University, to include culinary herbs for their antimicrobial properties as well as for their flavor. This recipe fills a pint-size glass jar, but she encourages you to experiment with other sizes as well as different herbs.

INGREDIENTS

1⁄4 medium onion, chopped
3 clove garlic, peeled and minced (can double to taste)
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced (can double to taste)
1 inch piece of horseradish, grated (can double to taste)
1 t turmeric, ground
1⁄8 t cayenne pepper (can double to taste)
1 t dried coriander seeds
1⁄2 t dried lemon peel
1⁄2 t black pepper
1 T each of your favorite fresh culinary herbs, i.e. rosemary, basil, tarragon, hyssop (or use 1 teaspoon each dried)
1 c raw apple cider vinegar (to fill half of jar)
1 c raw honey (to fill half of jar)

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Place onion, garlic, ginger, horseradish, spices and herbs in the bottom of the jar. Add in vinegar and honey in equal amounts to fill the jar, probably 1 scant cup of each. If you’re sealing the jar with a metal lid, place a piece of parchment paper or wax paper between the glass jar and the lid to keep the vinegar from corroding the metal.

Shake well, store in a cool dark place for about a month, and shake the jar daily. After about a month, strain the liquid, squeezing the solids with a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer.

Traditional Fire Cider does not need to be refrigerated. Store in a cool dark place for as long as a year. Take 1 tablespoon a couple of times a day to maintain health.

 

Thank you to Bastyr University for this recipe.

 


 

Tamari Dressing

 

INGREDIENTS

1⁄4 c flax seed oil
3 T wheat-free tamari
3 T apple cider vinegar
2 clove garlic, minced

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Adjust the proportions to taste. For a more unique flavor add a few pinches of one or more of the following: onion powder, oregano, basil, or curry powder. Be creative!

Thank you to Bastyr University for this recipe.


 

Non-Toxic Household Cleaner

 

INGREDIENTS

2 drops of your favorite scented essential oil (lemon, orange, tea tree are great options)
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 c filtered warm water

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Mix ingredients and store in a spray bottle. Use as an all-purpose household cleaner.

 

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Tarragon 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome to The Naturopathic Kitchen where we explore food as medicine. Armed with the knowledge of what is healthy you can be empowered to take control of your health. It can be intimidating to try new things especially when you don’t know what it is good for or how to prepare/cook it. Let’s learn together! Today, we tackle tarragon!

Tarragon 101

Tarragon is one of those herbs you’ve probably heard of but haven’t incorporated into any home-cooked meals. Considered by French chefs as “King of the Herbs,” tarragon is used to add an interesting pop of flavor. It is commonly added to stews, sauces, fish and chicken dishes, omelets and many seasoning blends. This herb gives off a sweet and powerful flavor similar to anise or licorice root.

Where does tarragon come from? Where can I find it?

Unlike many of the other herbs in this series, tarragon doesn’t have a long history of cultivation by humans—only about 600 years. It grows natively in Siberia and Mongolia, and varieties from these areas tend to be more effective medicinally compared to its culinary cultivars in the West.

Dried and fresh tarragon is easily found in most major grocery stores. It is also a good herb to include in an herb garden as it grows well even for the novice indoor gardener. Tarragon extracts can be found online or at specialty herb stores, but these products often don’t have a long shelf-life due to quick degradation of the medicinal components. It is best to plan on using it right away rather than storing it.

How does tarragon help my health?

Historically, tarragon has been used for indigestion, intestinal problems, bug bites, flatulence, hiccups, rheumatism, gout, arthritis, and as a breath freshener. Scientific literature hasn’t supported many of these uses but studies have shown that tarragon may be helpful for inflammation, liver protection, diabetes and depression. 1,2,3

What medical conditions/symptoms is tarragon used for?

Can tarragon be used as an essential oil?

Tarragon essential oil can be helpful for bug bites and bug bite prevention when mixed with a carrier oil. As always, essential oils should always be used under the guidance of an experienced naturopathic physician.

When should tarragon be avoided?

Tarragon extracts contain two compounds that can be toxic in large amounts. Water extracts avoid this issue as these compounds are not extracted with water. This toxicity is not an issue with normal consumption of tarragon used in cooking. Because of this, it is best to avoid tarragon when pregnant or breastfeeding.

 

Let’s try out some tasty tarragon recipes!

 

Salmon Tarragon Pasta

 

INGREDIENTS

2 T olive oil
1 red onion
4 cloves garlic
1.5 c Brussels sprouts, chopped
2 wild caught salmon fillets, skin removed
2 c cooked gluten free pasta
1/2 t tarragon
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t fresh parsley chopped
1/2 c coconut milk

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Peel and dice the red onion and garlic. Chop the Brussels sprouts. Add oil to a pan over medium heat and toss in the onions. Let saute about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the garlic and saute for a minute. Add in the Brussels Sprouts and saute another five minutes. As Brussels Sprouts are sauteing, prepare pasta, drain and set aside. Add in the salmon fillets and flake gently with a spoon as it cooks, sauteing the fillets about five more minutes. Toss pasta, tarragon, parsley, and smoked paprika into the pan and stir well. Add in the coconut milk and stir about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with more fresh parsley and serve warm.

Thank you to Savory Spin for this recipe!

 

 

Tarragon Citrus Dip

 

INGREDIENTS

1 c organic whole milk Greek or coconut yogurt
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
2 t grated lemon zest
1 T lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t salt

 

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Set aside for at least 5 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Serve with English cucumber, red bell pepper, chives and carrots.

Thank you to Giada De Laurentiis for this recipe!

 
 

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Learn more about becoming a naturopathic doctor. Receive information from one of our seven accredited schools across the U.S. & Canada.

Fig 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen! Each week we go back to the basics to use food as medicine in order to lead healthier lives. It can be intimidating to try new things especially when you don’t know what it is good for or how to prepare/cook it. Today we’ll be figuring out figs!

Figs 101

Are Fig Newtons or figgy pudding the first thing that comes to mind when you think fig? Let’s change that association! As one of the sweetest fruits available, figs are a great way to sweeten a dessert or add variety to any healthy dish.

Where do figs come from? Where can I find them?

Figs have a long history of use dating back as far as 5000 BC and is said to be one of the first fruits ever cultivated by humans. Figs were so popular in ancient Greece, that laws were enacted to prevent exportation. They are also a major part of the Mediterranean Diet which is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world.

Figs are the fruit of the fig tree and are actually inverted flowers. The flesh of the fig fruit is made from the mature flower, which blooms inside the skin and is never seen like a traditional flower.

Figs are easily found fresh in most major grocery stores between mid-June and mid-October. They can be purchased year-long dried, frozen or in jams.

How do figs help my health?

Naturally high in essential nutrients and fiber, figs are considered a very nutrient-dense fruit. Like other tree fruits, figs contain high amounts of polyphenols—a free radical scavenging family of compounds, as well as potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and various trace minerals. Research has shown figs help with conditions such as: liver disease, diabetes, anemia, skin cancer, and may even reduce skin wrinkles from aging. 1,2,3,4

What medical conditions/symptoms are figs used for?

When should fig be avoided?

Since figs can lower blood sugar, you should monitor your blood sugar closely when taking insulin for diabetes. Figs should also be avoided 2 weeks prior to surgery for this same reason.

 

Let’s try out some flavorful fig recipes!

 

Grilled Brie Stuffed Figs with Honey

INGREDIENTS

8 fresh figs
1/4 wedge of brie cheese, cut into small 1/2-inch cubes
organic cold pressed olive oil
2-3 grill skewers
Honey
Freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the grill and make sure the surface is clean. Soak wooden skewers (if you are using wood). Press the figs onto the skewers. Lightly brush each side with olive oil. Grill until softened with the lid on the grill up so they don’t overheat and burst. When cooked, turn them inside and cool for five minutes. Remove from skewers. Make cross-shaped cuts from the top-down midway into the fig. Stuff with the brie cheese. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle cracked pepper on top to taste.

Thank you to Garden and Table for this recipe!

 

Balsamic and Mustard Glazed Chicken and Figs

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c balsamic vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T olive oil, divided
1 T honey
1 T coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 cloves
garlic, minced
2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or breasts (4 – 6)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 fresh figs, halve

INSTRUCTIONS

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. To make the glaze, whisk the vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, honey, sage and garlic together in a small bowl; set aside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large cast iron or oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the skin is crisp and golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken and scatter the figs around it. Carefully pour the glaze evenly over the chicken and figs. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook, spooning some of the glaze in the skillet back over the chicken halfway through, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 10 to 12 minutes total. Serve the chicken with the sauce.

Thank you to kitchn for this recipe!

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Cooking Oils 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Cooking oil is a staple in every kitchen, and one that is not often given much thought.  What you don’t know CAN hurt you! Let’s dig deeper and learn more about seven of the most common oils. Discover how the oils are made, what they are used for, their pros and cons.

Oil
UseHow is it Made?ProsCons
CanolaCandles, soaps, lipsticks, lubricants, inks, biofuels, insecticides and foodProduced from a genetically modified rapeseed plant
Cheap, wide range of industrial uses

Unhealthy - can damage kidneys, liver, and heart; can lead to hypertension, may retard growth

VegetableDeep frying, stir frying, sautéing, baked goods
Can be any of rapeseed, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, or other seed oils
Cheap and accessible
High amounts of omega-6 fatty acids that increase inflammation; contains trans fats when hydrogenated
AvocadoHigh-heat cooking, salads, frying

Pressed from the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit
High smoke point, good raw or cooked; benefits skin health, arthritis and heart health
Expensive, not available in all stores or regions
GrapeseedDeep frying, stir frying, sautéing, baked goods
Pressed from the rock hard seeds of the grape plant
Higher proportion of healthier omega-6 fats
Can increase inflammation, cholesterol, weight gain and hormonal imbalance
OliveSalad dressings, condiment, medium-high heat cooking
Pressed from raw olives
One of the healthiest oils - contains high amounts of antioxidants, as well as a high percentage of monounsaturated fats
Can be expensive, especially if organic and extra-virgin
CoconutHigh-heat cooking, baking, cosmetics, sunscreens, desserts
Pressed from the white pulp of the coconut often giving it a pearlescent look when solidified

Great for high-heat cooking due to its high percentage of saturated fat. Becoming widely available. Has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.Contains a high percentage of saturated fat. Can be expensive. Has a specific flavor that may not work with all foods.
SesameMost common oil for cooking in India and Asian countries. Flavor-enhancer, as well as some industrial and cosmetic uses
Pressed or extracted from dehisced sesame seeds
Contains a moderate amount of vitamin K. Inexpensive, nutty flavor/aroma, withstands high heat
Low quality products may be extracted with chemical or high heat extraction methods, may be allergenic for some people

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