Soy 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome to your weekly dose of The Naturopathic Kitchen! Each week we discuss a different herb or food and learn how to incorporate them into your diet to reap its health benefits. This week is all about soy.

Soy 101

Soy refers to the edible part of soybean plant that is grown throughout the world as an inexpensive source of protein. Because of its expansive growing operations and vital importance to the contemporary food supply, the soybean was among the first crops to undergo genetic modifications. One of the genetic enhancements was made to include tolerance to the herbicide RoundUp. Numerous studies have linked this product with negative health and environmental consequences, including being declared a likely human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.1 Currently, around 94% of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified.2 Because of this, it is important to buy organic soybeans, which are an excellent source of protein and come packed with health benefits!

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

Soybeans originated in Southeast Asia, and were first domesticated by Chinese farmers about 3,000 years ago. Since then, they have steadily gained popularity in almost every country. Farmers recognized soy as a cost-effective and healthy protein source for livestock. Soy is also commonly processed into many different forms that make their way in to the food supply.

By far, the best way to consume soy is from boiled soybeans, tofu, or soy milk—all organic of course! These products can typically be found at most major grocery stores, though you may only find organic soy products in health food stores. Boiled soybeans (also known as edamame) are often found frozen, but organic varieties may not as easily be found.

How does soy help my health?

Not only is soy an excellent source of protein, healthy fats and a variety of vitamins and minerals, it is also rich in a class of compounds called isoflavones. Isoflavones are responsible for soy getting a lot of bad press because some studies using experimental models have revealed potential adverse effects of isoflavones that are believed to be due to their capacity for estrogenic activity. It is important to note that because most animals (including rodents and non-human primates) metabolize isoflavones much differently than humans do, these same results haven’t been replicated in humans.3 In fact, research has shown that these isoflavones actually have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity in humans.4 In this way, they have a modulating effect—both boosting estrogenic activity when low and lowering it when it is too high. Research has shown that soy may impact multiple pathways involved in the development and growth of cancer, particularly types related to hormones such as breast and prostate cancer.5,6 Soy has also been shown to improve mood, improve skin health, alleviate hot flashes, and may favorably affect kidney function.3

What medical conditions/symptoms is soy good for?

When should soy be avoided?

Though there is certainly contention over the benefits of soy within the nutrition community, there are actually only very limited situations where soy should be avoided entirely such as with a soy allergy or intolerance. In the past, there have been concerns surrounding thyroid function and soy intake, but modern research has not substantiated these issues beyond the theoretical in most people.7,8 The only group of concern was individuals with overt iodine deficiency which is not incredibly common in modern society. In absence of soy allergy or intolerance, as long as one has adequate iodine intake and consumes soy from minimally or non-processed organic sources, moderate intake is unlikely to pose health risks.

Let’s try soy out with these delicious and nutritious recipes!

Black Bean and Edamame Salad

INGREDIENTS

12 oz cooked, organic edamame (soybeans)
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz corn, drained
1/2 c diced organic yellow bell pepper
1/2 c diced organic orange bell pepper
1/3 c chopped onion
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 c organic olive oil
1/3 c lime juice
1 clove garlic minced
1 t cumin
1/2 t salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine all of the beans, corn, peppers, onions and cilantro. In a small bowl, combine oil, juice, cumin, garlic and salt. Stir with a whisk. Pour over beans and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thank you to Lemons for LuLu for this recipe.

Homemade Soy Milk

INGREDIENTS

1 c dried organic soybeans
8 c filtered water
1/8 t pure stevia extract powder

INSTRUCTIONS

Rinse the dried soybeans well with water, then soak the beans with 2 cups of filtered water in a large container for at least 6 hours at room temperature. Transfer half of the soaked soybeans into a blender, add 3 cups of water or add water to the 4½ cups mark of the blender. Blend the soybean until it is smooth. Line a saucepan with a single layer of muslin cloth, then pour the blended soybean water mixture in the muslin cloth. Repeat step 2 and 3 to finish the rest of the soybeans. Collect all ends of muslin cloth and squeeze out the liquid (soy milk) to strain the mixture. Boil the soy milk on the stove top. After boiling, simmer for 1 minute. Makes 8 cups.

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Milk 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

You’re probably familiar with famous tagline, “Got Milk?” along with images of celebrities sporting milk mustaches and espousing the health benefits of cow’s milk. Today, however, milk alternatives are increasing in popularity as cow’s milk has been linked to negative health effects in portions of the population. 1 Many people develop a deficiency of the enzyme lactase that is needed to digest sugars found in cow’s dairy. Without the ability to properly digest cow’s dairy, they experience uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea and persistent abdominal pain. The pasteurization process further destroys important digestive enzymes needed to properly digest milk. For these reasons, cow’s dairy is a prominent food sensitivity for many people, even if they do not experience a true allergenic response.

As a result, a considerable number of non-dairy milk alternatives have emerged on the market. Milk alternatives are made from a variety of plant sources such as nuts, seeds and grains and each variety has a unique nutritional profile, flavor, color, and texture as well as other properties such as its ability to combine with other liquids or be used in baking. People who wish to stop using dairy milk may substitute from a range of plant-based options as well as milk from other animals such as goats.

Milk
How is it Made?ProsCons
SoyProduced from soaking and grinding soybeans, boiling the mixture and filtering the remaining particlesBecoming widely available, thickest of the alternative milks, longer shelf-life than dairy milk, can be stored at room temperature for monthsOften contains gums, fillers, and added sugar. If not organic, it is likely a GMO and contains pesticides
AlmondProduced from blending almonds in water and passing through a filterGood alternative to dairy and soy milks, lower calorie (unless sweetened), high in vitamin EOften contains gums, fillers, and added sugars. Typically contains the non-active form of vitamin D (D2). Made from skinless almonds with most fiber and antioxidants removed
CowMilked and bottled directly from cowsMost versatile, can be processed into many different types of dairy products that have a long track record of use. Highest in natural micronutrient and good quality fats (when grass-fed)High incidence of allergy or lactose intolerance. May contain added hormones and other xenobiotics that the cow ingested
GoatMilked and bottled directly from goatsEasier to digest and less allergenic than cow dairy. Nutrients and minerals are more bioavailable than cow dairyHas a strong flavor and smell that may be unpleasant to some
CashewRaw cashews are soaked in water, blended, and filteredGood flavor and often thicker than other alternative milks. Contains significant amounts of tryptophan which may increase serotonin.Often contains gums, fillers, and often added sugars. Typically contains the non-active form of vitamin D (D2). Has a higher rate of intolerance or allergy than other alternative milks
CoconutGrated pulp is soaked in hot water, squeezed, and filteredHigh in healthy fats and medium chain triglycerides. Higher in vitamins and minerals than other alternative milks. Improves digestion and aids in constipationOften contains gums, fillers, and often added sugars. Typically contains the non-active form of vitamin D (D2). Canned varieties may contain BPA (an industrial chemical used to make plastic)
RiceBlend cooked rice with water and strainLess allergenic than cow dairy, easy and inexpensive to make at home, low in fat and cholesterol free, good source of B vitamins, manganese, and seleniumHigher in sugar and carbohydrates than other milk alternatives, may contain high levels of arsenic, may contain additives like gums, thickeners, as well as added sugar
HempHemp seeds are blended with water, salt, and sweetener then strainedIs a complete protein and contains healthy fats including omega 3. It is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin D, and B vitamins among others. Will not cause the “high” associated with marijuana (THC)Does not mix well and can separate in drinks like coffee; can be challenging to find
OatOats are soaked, drained, blended with water and salt, then strainedCreamy flavor, rich consistency, blends well with other beverages (i.e. coffee), Good source of iron, heart-healthy, lowers cholesterolCommercial varieties may be full of additives, preservatives, and sugar. Often cross-contaminated with gluten via processing facilities. Not as nutrient-dense as other milk alternatives

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Onion 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen. Living a healthy life has its roots in the kitchen. This week we will focus on a kitchen staple – onion. Onions are used to flavor foods and also boast a number of health benefits. We will wrap things up with two amazing recipes for you to try!

Onion 101

The relationship between humans and onions dates back many millennia. Among the best known historical references to the onion comes from ancient Egypt. Onions were a symbol of eternity and endless life (because of their roundish shape), and were staple in religious ceremonies.  They were also used as part of the mummification process. Onions have even been found painted on the walls of Egyptian structures, pyramids, and tombs.

Other ancient civilizations also have historical record of onion use. Ancient Indian medical writings mention onion as an important remedy for conditions of the heart, joints, and the digestive tract. The ancient Greeks believed onion gave one the strength of the Gods. In fact, onions were eaten by athletes in an effort to bolster endurance during the very first Olympic games.

The onion is officially a member of the allium family, also home to garlic, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots. Although it is low in calories, onions are quite rich in vitamins and other micronutrients. Onions are a good source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins C and E. They also contain minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and sulfur.

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

Even though wild onions grow on nearly every continent, they are among the oldest farmed plants. Cultivation is believed to have begun around 5500 years ago but there are multiple theories regarding the early cultivation of onions. Some believe that the first instance of a domesticated onion was in Central Asia, others believe it was in the Middle East region of Iran and West Pakistan, and still others believe it was much earlier than that – even before the creation of writing and sophisticated tools.

Today, onions come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. There are over 27 types of cultivated onion, with the yellow onion the most popular. While all onions taste like onion, they do vary in their level of sweetness and sharpness. When selecting onions at the store, look for ones that are quite firm with little to no scent. Avoid any that have cuts, bruises, or blemishes. Onions should be stored in cool, dry, dark places with air movement. They should not be stored in plastic bags. Once cut, onions can be stored sealed in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

How does onion help my health?

Due to their high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, onions are beneficial for a number of health conditions. They may play a vital role in the battle for bone health, particularly for women as they transition through menopause. That’s because a peptide found in onions has been shown to inhibit the activity of osteoclasts.1 Osteoclasts are bone cells that resorb bone tissue and can cause bones to weaken.

Onions are a beneficial source of the flavonoid antioxidant quercetin. Quercetin has demonstrated potent anti-cancer abilities, particularly for those battling lung cancer. Research has shown that quercetin has the ability to not only slow growth of cancerous cells in the lung but also to suppress metastatic spread of those cells as well.2

Consuming onions or onion-derived compounds is not the only way to reap their health benefits. Topical application with creams containing onion extract have been shown to treat skin conditions like burn scars, keloids, and surgical scars with well-tolerated success.3 Topically applied onion juice has also been used in the treatment of alopecia areata, a condition of patchy, non-scarring hair loss often affecting children.4

What medical conditions/symptoms is onion used for?

When should onion be avoided?

Barring an outright allergy or individual digestive sensitivity to onion, contraindications for dietary onion have not been fully identified. That is, unless you are a dog. Onions should not be fed to dogs. This is due to the ability of onion to lead to anemia by weakening the red blood cells, which could even result in death in severe cases.

Let’s try out onion with these tasty recipes!

 

Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions

 

INGREDIENTS

2 T olive oil
1 lb white button mushrooms halved
1 onion, sliced
½ t salt
2 T balsamic vinegar

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and onion; sprinkle with salt and stir to combine.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until liquid is released from mushrooms, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms and onions are softened and browned, about 3 -5 minutes.
  3. Add balsamic vinegar and stir until mushrooms and onions are coated evenly and the vinegar is heated through.

Thank you to CulinaryHill.com for this great recipe.

 

Vegan French Onion Soup

 

INGREDIENTS

2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 large white or yellow onions, sliced into thin half-moons
3 large fresh thyme sprigs (about 1 tbsp), leaves stripped (or ½ tsp dried)
2 T aged balsamic vinegar
4 c vegetable stock (no salt added)
2 c purified water
1 bay leaf
3 t sea salt, divided
½ t freshly ground black pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Add the onions, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the onions; lower the heat to medium low. The onions may be filling the pot completely but will cook down to about ⅓ of their mass.
  3. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onions caramelize and turn light golden brown, about 50-60 minutes.
  4. Add the balsamic and cook until it’s absorbed and the onions are a deeper brown, about 15 more minutes.
  5. Add the stock, water, bay leaf, remaining salt and pepper, then bring to a boil.
  6. Turn the heat to low and simmer at least 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Thank you to ElizabethRider.com for today’s tasty recipe!

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Elderberry 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen! As always, our goal is to bring new, healthy foods into the kitchen and try them out in fun and flavorful recipes! This week we will take a closer look at a winter staple, the elderberry.

Elderberry 101

Elderberry is perhaps among the oldest medicinal herbs on record. Its healing properties have been recognized since the time of Hippocrates, as early as 400AD. Archeological studies have dated the elder tree back even further, to the Neolithic age (around 2000BC). Historically, the elder tree has been used for a variety of purposes from medicinal to musical instruments. Traditionally, hollowed elderberry sprigs have been used to tap into maple trees to retrieve maple syrup. Several tribes of Native Americans used elderberry branches to make flute-like instruments. The plant itself was sometimes called “the tree of music.”

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

Though it may not be well-known, elderberry is far from a newcomer to the herbal medicine field. Elderberry syrup can be purchased commercially in many stores, but it is rare to find fresh, frozen, or dried elderberries in supermarkets. They are typically available in herb shops and can be ordered online in bulk amounts.

The elderberry plant is growing in popularity as a landscape hedge. Wild elderberry bushes can be found in many places around the globe. In North America, its characteristic clusters of small, cream-colored flowers are often seen in late spring and early summer with the clusters of small, dark, purple berries appearing mid-summer to early fall.

How do elderberries help my health?

Elderberries are well known for their medicinal properties. Elderberries are rich in antioxidants, anthocyanin and vitamin C. In fact, they have a vitamin C level that is twice that commonly found in oranges, and an antioxidant capacity that is triple that of blueberries. They are also high in phytonutrients like polyphenols and bioflavonoids.

Though there are many different varieties of elderberries, Sambucus nigra or black elderberry is the type most often used for medicinal purposes. Elderberry has been used in the treatment of flu pandemics and has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms.1 It has also been shown to minimize obesity related complications including lowering triglyceride levels in the blood, reducing inflammatory markers and improving insulin sensitivity.2 Further, elderberry has led to improved vascular health and lowered cardiovascular risk factors by reducing the amount of cholesterol found in the aorta, which serves as an indicator of reduced atherosclerosis progression.3 Elderberry has also been researched for its impact on the growth and spread of cancer. A recent study found that elderberry had the potential to inhibit the proliferation of metastatic melanoma cells.4

What medical conditions/symptoms is elderberry used for?

Immune support

Antiviral activity

Treatment of upper respiratory symptoms

Management of multiple influenza strains

Improve HDL function

Fatty Liver

Promote cancer cell death

When should elderberries be avoided?

Although it is clear that elderberries have numerous benefits to health, there are also some cautions that should be considered with their consumption. Elderberries are known to impact the immune system and have the potential to increase immune activity. While this is a good thing when it comes to most people who come down with a cold or the flu, it could be detrimental to those with an autoimmune disease and result in increased disease activity. For this same reason, consuming elderberries with medications that are designed to suppress the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of the medication.

It is also important to note that although the flowers and cooked berries are safe to consume, raw berries, bark, roots, and leaves are known to have poisonous qualities and can cause significant stomach issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Luckily, the toxic substances found in berries can be safely removed by cooking the berries. However, cooking or juicing the branches, bark, of leaves is not recommended.

Let’s try out elderberry with these tasty recipes!

Spiced Elderberry Syrup

 

INGREDIENTS

1 c fresh or ¾ c dried elderberries
3 c water
2 T fresh sliced ginger
1 t cinnamon or ½ cinnamon stick
1 t cloves
1 c raw honey

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place elderberries, water, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
  2. Remove from heat and using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, strain out mixture.
  3. Transfer liquid to a jar and stir in honey.
  4. Keep in the fridge sealed for 2-3 weeks.

Thank you to meghantelpner.com for this wonderful recipe!

Elderberry Muffins

 

INGREDIENTS

3 c oat flour
1 T baking powder
3/8 t baking soda
½ t salt
¼ c applesauce
7 T melted dairy-free butter alternative
1 c soy buttermilk, (soy milk combined with 1 T of apple cider vinegar)
½ c honey
1 t vanilla
2 c fresh elderberries, rinsed and drained

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 350.
  2. Mix dry ingredients (oat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix applesauce, soy buttermilk, honey, melted butter alternative and vanilla.
  4. Place elderberries in a small bowl and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture. Gently stir the elderberries to coat them with the flour mixture.
  5. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Add the berries. It’s okay for the batter to be lumpy because you don’t want to over mix so the muffins will be fluffy.
  6. Pour the batter into muffin cups and bake for about 17-20 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Thank you to namelymarley.com for the tasty recipe!

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Spinach 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen where our goal is to learn about eating healthy and embracing food as medicine. This week we will take a closer look at spinach. Spinach is a great way to introduce leafy greens because it has a mildly sweet flavor and lacks the bitterness associated with other leafy greens.

Spinach 101

Popularized in the US in the 1930s by the iconoic comic and cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man, spinach is a member of the Amaranth family, making it a relative of beets, chard, and quinoa. Spinach has a long history of use in nearly all cultures around the world. In fact, it was a favorite of Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France, who ordered it be served for every meal! Even in modern times, many dishes that are made with spinach are often called “Florentine” as a nod to her birthplace- Florence.

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

The origin of spinach actually predates written record. Spinach is believed to have originated in ancient Persia, and from there spread to India and China where it became known as “Persian Vegetable” before making its way to Europe in the 1300s.  Spinach became very popular in Europe because it grows during a time when other vegetables are scarce, and religious events such as Lent invoke dietary restrictions that discourage the consumption of other foods.

Today, spinach is sold loose, bunched, packaged fresh in bags as well as canned or frozen. It is important to note that spinach is particularly susceptible to nutrient degradation with prolonged storage beyond a few days. Refrigeration slows this effect, but for prolonged storage, freezing, cooking, and canning are preferable to preserve its nutrients.

The average American eats about three pounds of spinach each year. There are three basic variants of spinach: savoy has leaves that are dark green and curly, the semi-savoy is a hybrid variety that has less curly leaves (thus making it easier to clean), and the flat or smooth leaf type (probably the most common and familiar in the US).

How does spinach help my health?

Spinach boasts an impressive array of nutrients. It is a great source of vitamins A, C, K and E, as well as B6, riboflavin (B2), and folate (B9).  Rich in fiber and carotenoids like lutein, spinach also contains minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, are recognized as having substantial health-promoting activities that are attributed to their nutrients and other non-essential chemical compounds. For example, the lutein compounds in spinach have been shown to provide some reduction in the risk of degenerative eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.1 Spinach contains nutrients known to aid in reducing inflammation of the vascular system.2  Consuming spinach has also been shown to reduce cravings for sweets.3

What medical conditions/symptoms is spinach used for?

Reduced hunger

Minimize cataract risk

Curb emotional eating

Improve radiation treatment of cancer

Support bone health

Promote digestive health

When should spinach be avoided?

Eating excessive amounts of spinach can result in impaired ability to absorb certain minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and others. The reason spinach can interfere with the body’s mineral absorption capacity is because it contains a lot of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is known to bind to mineral compounds and inhibit their absorption. This can mean our body does not get enough of these essential minerals which can impair the normal function of bodily systems and even result in disease related to mineral deficiency like anemia.

Additionally, those with a history of gout, kidney stones, or blood clotting issues should be cautious with excess spinach intake. Spinach contains large amounts of purine compounds. Purines are chemical compounds that when ingested, can be converted into uric acid. Uric acid can combine with calcium to form kidney stones or be deposited in the joints resulting in gout. People taking blood clotting medications like Warfarin should also be cautious, as the vitamin K content of spinach can interfere with the effectiveness of the medication.

Let’s try out spinach with these tasty recipes!

Lemony Garlic Spinach

 

INGREDIENTS

12 c fresh spinach
1 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
zest of 1 medium lemon
1 T fresh lemon Juice
sea salt, to taste
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
red chili flakes (optional)

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat large frying pan on medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic until fragrant and translucent.
  2. Add spinach (it will shrink and cook down). Gently stir the spinach until it’s all cooked and wilted, but not mushy.
  3. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Add optional red chili flakes if you want a little heat. Then add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir it all into the spinach.
  4. Enjoy!

Thank you to bestrecipeboc.com for the wonderful recipe!

Pan-roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spinach

 

INGREDIENTS

2 large sweet potatoes, med diced
12 spinach leaves, fresh
3 t honey
1/2 t dried rosemary
2 pinches chili powder
3 T olive oil
2 pinches of salt

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat sauté pan on medium heat.
  2. Dice potatoes in medium sized dice.
  3. Add oil to pan, let the oil get hot and add potatoes, cook until fork tender with no lid.
  4. Potatoes should be fork tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add honey, rosemary, salt, and chili powder and cook for one more minute.
  6. Add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted.

Thank you to pbs.org for this tasty recipe!

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Fennel 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen. As always, our focus is to learn more about bringing new, fun and healthy foods into our kitchens. Today we will take a closer look at a flavorful plant called fennel.

Fennel 101

Fennel is a unique vegetable that can be used in many different ways. Today, it is an important component of many European foods, playing a particularly strong role in French and Italian cuisine. Historically, fennel dates back to ancient times when it went by the name “marathon” (due to growing in the field where the Battle of Marathon took place). In Greek mythology fennel was linked to the god of food and wine, Dionysus, who held a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus. Fennel was cherished by both the Greeks and Roman civilizations for both its culinary and medicinal purposes.

Beyond Europe, fennel seeds are often featured in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Fennel is listed in the Chinese Materia Medical from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and is an ingredient in the popular spice mixture known as “Five Spice.” Fennel is also a common ingredient in Chinese curry mixtures used along the southern Chinese border. Indian and Pakistani cuisine often features a bowl of fennel seeds known as “mukhwas” that are sometimes cloaked in a brightly colored candy shell or roasted, meant to be consumed after the meal to aid in digestion and reduce flatulence. They also serve the dual purpose of acting as an herbal breath freshener.

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

Although actually a relative of parsley, coriander, carrots, and dill, fennel looks more like celery, but with a large white or pale green bulb at the bottom that has close-packed, overlapping fronds covered in feathery, thin leaves on the top. Flowers grow interspersed in the leaves and produce fennel seeds. The entire above ground plant, including the seeds and pollen, is edible.

When purchasing fennel, seek bulbs that are firm and solid. The bulb should be clean and free of blemishes, bruises, spots, or splitting. Look for stalks that are green, with green leaves, straight, overlapping, don’t flare too far out to the sides. Flowering bulbs are unfavorable since that means that the plant is past maturity. Fennel is typically available in grocery stores and specialty stores during the fall and spring seasons.

Fennel is considered an aromatic which simply means that it is a plant with an enjoyable and distinctive smell. Its flavor is perfume-like with a sweetness similar to that of licorice or anise. Raw fennel is texturally crunchy with striated fibers. Fennel is quite versatile in its culinary use. It can be eaten in the raw state adding texture and crunch to dishes or it may be roasted or used in soups, sautéed or grilled, even caramelized. The tips of the fronds are often used as a garnish.

How does fennel help my health?

As is true of most culinary herbs, fennel possesses a treasure trove of phytonutrients that provide ample antioxidant activity. It is also a superb source of vitamin C and contains other nutrients like fiber. In terms of vitamins and minerals, fennel is known to contain folate, niacin (vitamin B3) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) as well as minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper.

Well known for its role in digestive health, research into the health benefits of fennel have covered an extensive array of symptoms and conditions.1 Studies have found fennel to have antimutagenic properties that inhibit the formation of cancerous cells.2 The essential oil distilled from fennel has liver-protective qualities, lowering levels of liver enzymes after liver injury in experimental models.3 Fennel essential oil has also been shown to have potent antimicrobial properties, even against bacteria with various mechanisms of resistance.Chewing whole fennel seeds or drinking tea made from fennel seeds acts to reduce intestinal cramping and is well known to relieve gas and bloating after meals.5

What medical conditions/symptoms is fennel used for?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Mood Support

Menopause Symptoms

Improve Inflammation

Modify Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Support Breast Milk Production

Reduces Flatulence and Bloating

When should fennel be avoided?

Given its longstanding history of use, fennel is considered safe. Limited clinical trials have found no concerns with daily fennel intake however, one should avoid fennel while taking ciprofloxacin (cipro) as significant interference in absorption has been noted in research.6

 

Let’s try out fennel with these tasty recipes!

 

Fennel Frond Pesto

 

INGREDIENTS

1 c fennel fronds
1/2 c pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/2 t Himalayan salt
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan (optional)

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Roughly chop garlic and add to a food processor with the Himalayan salt. Pulse to mince the garlic. Add the pine nuts and chop until fine. Pulse with the grated Parmesan cheese. Add the fennel fronds and extra virgin olive oil. Blend until smooth.

Thank you to backtoorganic.com for the fabulous recipe!

 

Fennel Slaw with Mint Vinaigrette

 

INGREDIENTS

1 fennel bulb (large, or 2 medium bulbs)
1 1/2 t sugar or maple syrup
2 T lemon juice
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t mustard
1/2 t salt
1 T chopped fresh mint
2 t shallot (minced)

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Put the lemon juice, shallot, mustard, salt, sugar and mint in a blender and pulse briefly. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until it is well combined. Using a mandoline, shave the fennel into 1/8-inch slices starting from the bottom of the bulb. Don’t worry about coring the fennel bulb, it’s unnecessary. If you don’t have a mandoline, slice the bulb as thin as you can. Chop some of the fennel fronds as well to toss in with the salad. Toss with the fennel and marinate for at least an hour. Serve this salad either cold or at room temperature.

Thank you to simplyrecipes.com for the wonderful recipe!

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