The Positive Side

Spring/Summer 2004 

Kiss in the Kitchen

15 food groups to pack in your pantry

By Lark Lands

By now you’ve probably heard that good nutrition is vitally important because HIV disease leads to multiple nutrient deficiencies which are a cause, in turn, of immune dysfunction and many symptoms. You may also know about the high level of oxidative stress and inflammation that HIV causes, making a high intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories necessary. So, of course, you spend hours every day creating delicious meals, cooked from scratch, right? Maybe in a perfect world… but we know you don’t always have the time or energy. Instead, finding ways to quickly and easily produce nutrient-rich meals and snacks is an important key for boosting nutrition in our busy lives.

Here are 15 ways to use the KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetie) principle in your kitchen. Listed are foods you can keep on-hand — because they’re frozen, canned, jarred, dried or otherwise not going to spoil very quickly — so they’re at the ready when you’re trying to boost your nutrition without lots of time and effort. You can produce an entire meal from the following ingredients, or add one or more to any meal or snack to skyrocket nutrient content. This way you can create the simplest of meals and treats: simply prepared, simply nutrient-loaded and simply yummy.

Apples, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, mangoes, peaches and other frozen or fresh fruit.

A rainbow mixture of fruits provides a broad spectrum of potent antioxidants, anti-cancer flavonoids, natural anti-inflammatories and soluble fibre. How do I love fruit? Let me count the ways: in a smoothie, on top of cereal, as a snack or dessert…. How about a fruit cocktail for a change? For a simple, juicy way to pack in several servings, try the KISS Fruit Shake (see recipe, below).

Garlic (fresh or powdered) and yellow, green or red onions.

Any way you slice, chop, mince, bake, roast, crush or powder it — garlic and onions, natural antifungals and antibacterials, are rich in antioxidants and protect against cancer and heart disease. Add to salads, soups, stews, casseroles, pasta, rice, omelettes or stir-fries.

Orange, cranberry, watermelon, tangerine, cherry and other fruit juices.

Loaded with vitamin C, flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols and other antioxidants that can boost immunity and protect against cancer and heart disease. Studies show that a daily glass of OJ may cut the risk of stroke by 25%, and several glasses of cranberry juice can raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (the healthy kind). Fresh-squeezed juice is best because numerous nutrients are packed into the pulp.

Roasted red peppers and green chili peppers.

Packed with vitamin C, lycopene and other antioxidants that boost immunity and counter heart disease and cancer. Use them in salads, sauces, pasta, casseroles, or Mexican and Italian dishes.

Ginger root.

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea agent and booster of HDL cholesterol. Ginger root can be chopped to make tea, added to sauces or soups, sautéed with veggies or mushrooms, or juiced to add to fruit drinks or fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Spinach, greens, carrots, broccoli, corn, squash, yams and other frozen or fresh veggies.

Green, orange and yellow vegetables are rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lutein, and other important antioxidants; dark greens are also loaded with chlorophyll, a cancer-protective pigment. Keep these and other frozen veggies on-hand for a quick side dish to any meal or to add to soups, casseroles, pasta, rice, omelettes or stir-fries.

Salmon or sardines.

Fresh or canned, they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which boost health throughout the body — immune system, nerves, brain, joints, heart and lungs — and are natural anti-inflammatories. Canned salmon also contains those crunchy bones full of calcium. Try to stick to wild salmon because there is controversy over the safety of farmed salmon. If you can’t get wild salmon and want to continue receiving the health benefits from fish, limit farmed salmon to one serving per week.

Avocados.

Research has shown that these yummy fruits are very liver protective, in part because they’re loaded with glutathione, an antioxidant crucial for liver function. Other glutathione-rich fruits include watermelon, strawberries, nectarines, tangerines, cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches and pears. Other foods that protect the liver include figs, cherries, papayas and kiwi (grapefruit, too, but be sure to check for drug interactions).

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.

Fresh or canned, they’re loaded with lycopene and other very important antioxidants. They’ve been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer (especially of the prostate, colon, stomach, intestines and bladder) and to help protect lungs (from air pollution), eyes (from macular degeneration), skin (from sun damage) and the brain (from memory loss). The lycopene is most available from tomatoes cooked with olive oil, so add both to soups, sauces, casseroles and stews, or use pre-prepared pasta sauces that contain them both.

Chicken broth and canned chicken.

The beginning of great soups — the quickest and easiest of meals. Pick a broth, throw in some veggies and canned chicken meat (or leftover chicken), and you’re on the way to a flavourful, protein-rich, nutrient-loaded meal (see recipe, below).

Eggs.

The incredible edible, eggs have high-quality protein, along with lots of lutein and zeazanthin (important antioxidant nutrients found in the yolk that protect against cataracts and macular degeneration), as well as significant amounts of vitamins A, B12 and D, folic acid, iron, phosphorus and riboflavin. Of great importance to PHAs, eggs also contain the sulfur amino acids needed by the body to create glutathione. “Enhanced” eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids. Fried, scrambled, baked, boiled, poached — eggs are ready in moments.

Dried fruit — plums (prunes), raisins, blueberries, cranberries and apricots… and some nuts and seeds, too.

These dried fruits are extremely high in antioxidants. Mix them with walnuts (a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids) and other nuts and seeds (good sources of vitamin E), and you’ll have a yummy trail-mix snack packed with important nutrients. Or use the nuts, raw or toasted, as a snack or sprinkled on salads, cooked veggies and desserts.

Tea.

Black or green, both are high in antioxidants and alkylamines, chemicals that boost immune cells to fight infections and cancers. The longer you brew it, the higher the antioxidant content. Also protects against heart disease. The caffeine in tea is released much more slowly than coffee’s, but if it bothers you, do decaf.

Whole-grain crackers, bread and pasta, and brown rice.

High in nutrients, especially B vitamins and fibre. Use the bread for sandwiches, the crackers as soup accompaniments or snacks, the pasta as the base for a great Italian meal, and the rice as a soup addition or side dish — all these whole foods are a source of healthful carbohydrates.

Chocolate and cocoa.

In an article about good nutrition?! Yep, both chocolate and cocoa are loaded with antioxidants. Bittersweet chocolate is the most nutrient-rich. Stick with brands like Hershey that don’t include nasty partially hydrogenated (trans) fats (read labels!), or make your own hot drink from cocoa powder. A cup of hot cocoa has an antioxidant concentration almost two times stronger than red wine, two to three times stronger than green tea, and four to five times stronger than black tea. Yes, it contains sugar and fat (unless you choose skim milk), so don’t overdo it, but if you’re going to indulge in a sweet treat, at least you can make it the most nutrient-loaded choice.

Lark Lands, a medical journalist and longtime AIDS treatment educator and advocate, was a pioneer in bringing attention to the need for a total integrated approach to HIV disease. She has written a number of articles and Practical Guides for CATIE, is a frequent speaker at AIDS conferences, and does her seminar Living Well… Not Just Longer throughout North America. For her fact sheets and treatment info summaries, go to www.larklands.net.

Lark’s KISS Fruit Shake

Put one sliced, ripe, medium-to-large banana in blender. Add frozen or fresh fruit to about the 3/4 mark. Since colour is where the nutrients are, use a rainbow mixture of fruits. (You can buy a frozen fruit smoothie mix that will give you the mangoes, papaya, pineapple and some strawberries. I use partly that and then add some other fruit.)

Fill the blender to a bit above the level of the fruit with juice (tangerine or orange tastes great, fresh-squeezed if possible). I also add a couple tablespoons each of mango purée, cranberry juice concentrate and/or pomegranate juice concentrate. The latter are an easy way to super-boost the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cancer protective nutrient levels of the shake. If you need extra calories, add coconut milk. If you need more protein, add a protein powder. For a really great anti-inflammatory addition, add ginger juice. (Peel ginger root, cut into medium-size pieces and juice it.) A few tablespoons are a spicily tasty addition to help counter inflammation throughout your body.

Blend the mixture until smooth (don’t overstress the blender; you may have to pulse it at first if most fruit is frozen). After it’s well blended, add a few heaping tablespoons of good plain yogurt (best is one of the unhomogenized organic varieties) and then blend a bit more. A yummy way to start your day or a sweet mid-day snack.

Lark’s KISS Chicken Veggie Soup

Start with some chicken broth, preferably Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth — delicious and far better than any others (available in many supermarkets in quart-size cardboard cartons, www.imaginefoods.com).

Bring broth to a boil. Add a mixture of vegetables in every colour (the more colour the better). If they don’t cause you excessive gas problems, add some beans (lentils or pintos or whatever you like, pre-cooked or canned), for a great nutrient-, fibre- and protein-rich addition. (Taking the vegetable enzyme Beano with such soups usually eliminates the gas problem.) Don’t overdo it with the beans because they make the soup very rich and filling, and the real goal is to eat the veggies.

Fresh veggies have the highest nutrient content. But if you don’t have time to dice and slice, frozen ones make the soup production much faster and easier. From the time you throw most frozen veggies into the broth, the soup’s usually ready in 10-12 minutes.

Add some leftover chicken or a can of chicken meat, broken up into small pieces. To up the nutrient value, add a few tablespoons of virgin olive oil (organic first cold-pressed extra virgin oils are best). Season with salt and pepper.

The first time you make the soup, you may want to start with basics that most people like: chicken broth, one can of diced tomatoes, three tablespoons of olive oil, chicken, corn, carrots, green beans, a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Then modify and try different varieties. Don’t overwhelm the soup with a lot of any one thing or too many different veggies because it tends to create a muddied flavor.

If you’re a vegetarian, you can start with a vegetable broth flavored with toasted sesame oil, and add some chunks of cheese to each bowl to make a creamy protein-adding addition. Cheddar, Monterey jack or a creamy blue all melt nicely.

You can top off the soup with some whole-grain crackers or nuts. I serve it with hot baked walnuts or pecans, because nuts are hugely heart-healthy and add to the protein content.

I make a reasonable amount of soup and keep some in the fridge (whatever I’ll use in the next two or three days). You can also freeze meal-sized portions. Putting leftovers in the microwave drastically lowers nutrient values, so heat it up the old-fashioned way.

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