Green Goddess Pasta Bowl & Micronutrients

Green Goddess Pasta Bowl & MICRONUTRIENTS

 

In my opinion, this is everything you want from a delicious bowl of PASTA – it’s rich, creamy, hearty, full of good quality protein, delicious, fresh and healthy. You really can have your pasta and eat it too, contrary to popular belief. It’s about simplifying, getting back to basic (cue whole foods) and getting rid of the, for lack of a better word, "nasty" stuff (think cheese, meat & other dairy products as well as chemical flavourants and E-numbers), and jam packing your pasta dish with all the true good stuff (think roasted vegetables, vegan pesto, cashew cream alfredo sauce, greens, tomatoes, olives, avocado etc). There are infinite ways of making your pasta dish that much more exciting, delicious and truly satisfying not only to your mind but to your body - on a cellular level. And so begins the introduction to MICRONUTRIENTS. The recipe is down below if you’d like to read on micronutrients later.

 

MICRONUTRIENTS

Have you ever had that experience when you’ve eaten a big bowl of pasta or a big meal and you’re full for about 30 minutes and then after that you’re not “hungry” as such because in terms of volume, capacity as well as energy you are “full” but perhaps you feel slightly unsatisfied, peckish, nibbly, or like you want something more? Well, I’ll elaborate a bit into one of this reasons why this might happen … it is quite plain and simple, really. What tends to happen is that you are feeding your body energy, but not nutrients. In terms of this, energy/calories are easy to come by but nutrients and making nutrients the center point to any dish has become much of a rarity in this day and age. As a result you may be “full” but you are by no means nourished. This means that you aren’t feeding your body, your cells, fibers, organs, blood vessels and tissues the vital micronutrients that they need in order to efficiently and effectively carry out their functions. So even though you might have eaten a lot you are in fact undernourished. There is a famous line that goes something like, “the majority of people are overfed and undernourished” and this couldn’t be more true, particularly in the case of obesity.   

 

Due to a lack of micronutrients, anything and everything that is eaten is momentarily satisfying but in that short lived satisfaction it is in fact unsatisfactory in its nature due to the nutrient-void nature of the food, leaving you feeling hungry and craving more, because your body is shouting for “MORE NUTRIENTS” but if one doesn’t have a basic understanding of a healthy diet and the importance of nutrients within said diet and how to come by them, then when the body screams for more nutrients, generally it is misunderstood and interpreted as a shout for “MORE FOOD”. This is when we see the hand reaching back into the cookie jar. If we were to replace those main meals with high nutrient, whole plant foods I can almost guarantee you that cravings would dissipate, excess weight would drop off, clarity of the mind and body would increase, energy and life force (prana) would increase, leaving one with a great sense of well-being and a zest for life. If we have a look at the obesity crisis at the moment with this lens, it changes our perspective of things quite a bit because seeing obese people as being undernourished is not generally the first thought that comes to mind when we encounter obesity, yet acknowledging the undernourished nature of most people suffering from obesity can help us to understand that often it comes from a place of simply not knowing better as well as to effect positive changes. We can then move away from the dieting treadmill & circus (which sets you up for failure every time) and move into an understanding of “eat better, not less”. Some other ways to make tangible changes in terms of understanding the basics of nutrition are things like: teaching the importance of good nutrition in schools as well as teaching children how to cook good, wholesome food and/or making whole plant food products more available to people, understanding and changing our understanding and concept of what a healthy diet really means (whole plant foods for the win).

 

What happens when we start to eat a high nutrient dense diet is that we feel lighter, more energized, clear-thinking, we feel satisfied and healthy. Cravings disappear as we’ve now nourishing our bodies on the most basic, and fundamental level possible. These are the building blocks for long-term health, longevity, fitness, and high performance (no matter who you are or what you do.  Your health is your birth right and by the same token, it is your responsibility).

 

But what ARE micronutrients?

There are two types of micronutrients and they are namely: vitamins & minerals. Even though we only need them in small amounts, most people don’t even make the minimum requirement of micronutrients in today’s fast-food world where the idea of a meal is a hamburger and fries and the tomato sauce on a pizza is deemed a vegetable. These nutrients are so vital for the basic and optimal functioning of the body by regulating things like bone density, heartbeat, cellular pH, as well as metabolism to name just a few. Lack of these nutrients can lead to many diseases, weaken the immune system making us more vulnerable to illness. Deficiency can stunt growth as well as cause major long-term side effects like osteoporosis. Never mind the direct and potent effect that these nutrients have on our quality of life and our ability to carpe the damn diem out of every single day!

 

Vitamins are available in two forms: water soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins need to be replaced daily as they are easily lost through bodily fluids, whereas fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body meaning we don’t have to have them every day for survival.

 

Minerals are also available in two forms: macrominerals and microminerals. Macrominerals are things like Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and Phosphorus (these are needed in larger amounts than microminerals). Microminerals are things like Iron, Copper, Iodine and Zinc and these are only needed in trace amounts.

 

Foods that are considered “nutrient dense” are foods that contain high amounts of micronutrients. To be categorized as “nutrient dense” what is taken into account? The ratio of micronutrients to calories in any given food. An example of high nutrient density foods are things like fruits and vegetables that have a high nutrient content for their respective low calorie/energy content. An example of a nutrient dense food is dark leafy greens – think chard, kale, spinach, baby spinach, bak choy, mustard greens, dandelion greens, beet greens etc. They provide a host of vitamins and minerals in various quantities and ratios for very low energy. They also contain high amounts of good quality plant protein which is one of the most easily digestible and usable forms of protein out there. This is one of the reasons why green juices are so important as an addition to ones’ diet – by juicing we add a plethora of micronutrients without having to sit down and eat an entire bag of kale which would likely be rather unpleasant to the average jo.

Now forward with the recipe for this divine pasta bowl of goodness. This recipe serves two. 

Ingredients:

·     1 avocado

·     heaped ½ cup small diced zucchini

·     1/3 cup small diced cucumber

·     1 cup tightly packed basil

·     1 tablespoon plant based milk

·     1 tablespoon lemon juice

·     2 teaspoons dark miso paste

·     ½ tablespoon soy sauce

·     heaped ¼ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

·     heaped ¼ teaspoon pink salt (or other good quality salt)

·     1 cup frozen peas

·     1 medium-large zucchini

·     2 garlic cloves

·     5 tablespoons flaked almonds

·     ½ lemon

·     4 cups dry fusilli pasta (brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, corn pasta, whatever kind of pasta you prefer!)

 

Method:

1.       Scoop your avocado into a blender or food processor, add in the chopped zucchini and cucumber. Wash and chop up your basil and add that to the blender along with the lemon juice, plant based milk, salt, pepper, miso paste, soy sauce. Blend until smooth and delicious.

2.    In a pan, toast your almonds and set aside.

3.    Thinly slice your zucchini lengthways into ribbons. Peel and slice your garlic, set aside. Bring a griddle pan to heat (or normal pan if you don’t have a griddle pan) put a dash of coconut oil in it if you use oil, or a splash of water if you’d like to keep it oil-free and once it’s hot add in your garlic and zucchini. Grill on both sides and once you have golden brown griddle marks on both sides and the zucchini is tender turn the heat off and squeeze the juice of ½ lemon over the zucchini. You will likely have to cook the zucchini ribbons in batches. Set aside.

4.    Cook your 4 cups of dry pasta according to the packet instructions, until al dente. In the last 10 seconds before draining the pasta, add your frozen peas in. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process (there’s nothing worse than overcooked pasta!).

5.    Now it’s really an assembly job: place the pasta and peas in a mixing bowl, pour over the sauce and mix well. Now add in the grilled ribboned zucchinis (leaving some to place on top), add a pinch of salt, mix in well and then top with the toasted almonds and a lemon wedge. Serve and ENJOY!

 

One thing I really love about this recipe is its versatility. It is a quick and easy recipe, it is perfect for a school/work lunch as you can eat it as a pasta “salad” or you can serve warm as is. It’s the perfect meal for a summer dinner or lunch as it’s hearty and substantial but still fresh and light. And the big bonus? It’s the perfect solution to the I-WANT-COMFORT-FOOD-NOW-BUT-I-ALSO-WANT-TO-NOURISH-MYSELF moments that can often leave people feeling very conflicted and as though there’s an internal battle in the mind between comfort and nourishment. There is no need for them to be mutually exclusive.