Fresh Italian Cooking: Vitamins & You

(c) 2011, Written by Will Blesch

I am a big fan of Italian food in general. Some of my favorite restaurants include mom-and-pop Italian places where the food seems homemade, and the staff like family. Force me and I’ll break down and go to some of the chain Italian eateries like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, or even Olive Garden.

Making, and eating, Italian food at home can be really nice though if one likes to cook.

I happen to love cooking. I never thought that I would since I hated working in my grandparent’s restaurant as a teenager. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize many lessons learned in their kitchen were pretty beneficial.

Still, it was the cooking my grandmother did at home that I believe brought out her genius as a chef. The style and relative healthiness of the meals she prepared there were much different than those served in the restaurant.

I know one thing for sure…I much preferred the fresh, whole foods used at home to the prepackaged things bought from companies like Ben E. Keith.

Anyway! I figured I would share a regular, spaghetti recipe with you all. I’m sharing it because I want to briefly run-down some of its ingredients and how, in moderate portions, this meal is really quite healthy.

ITALIAN SPAGHETTI WITH MEAT SAUCE
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or Italian sausage
1 med. onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
2 (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 (12 oz.) cans tomato paste
3 c. water
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. parsley flakes
2 cloves garlic or 2 tsp. garlic salt
1 bay leaf

Starting at the top, and then going down the list:

1. Beef. Protein! Muscle building blocks. Grrr…me man. Me love meat.

2. Onion: This guy contains large amounts of Quercetin, a flavanoid “found to be more abundant in the onion peel than in the flesh or core” which is antiviral in nature. When peeling, make sure to only peel the outermost layer…don’t dig too deep and throw out the upper layers.

When cooking, cook on low heat so as not to destroy the quercetin the onion naturally contains.

3. Green peppers: while not antiviral per se, they do have a lot of other vitamin nutrients “including vitamin C, beta carotene (a type of vitamin A), folate, and vitamin K.”

4. I don’t recommend the tomato paste or tomato sauce…especially if they come in a can. This is because the tomato’s natural acidity can leech too much of the can’s minerals. This includes aluminum. Bad for you. Very bad. When putting tomatos into spaghetti…try using fresh ones that you cut up and maybe puree yourself.

5. Oregano, Parsley and Bay Leaves all contain significant antioxidants…even in the dried forms normally used as cooking spices. “…processed herbs contribute significant amounts of AC to the diet.”

It’s important for me to shop somewhere that provides fresh, whole produce. Many regular supermarkets carry foods that are genetically modified, covered in pesticide and that ultimately are not good for your body. Whatever health benefits they normally might have are outweighed by the bad things the big agricultural companies knowingly stick into YOUR food supply.

Growing your own veggies is best. But, since many of us can’t do that, local farmer’s markets that use organically grown stuff are good second options. Finally, if you live in a place where there just aren’t any farmer’s markets…finding a nearby, Whole Foods supermarket and then shopping there is an option you should definitely consider.

With healthy, fresh products that contain all kinds of yummy, nutritious, antiviral, and antibacterial goodness the recipe above is gonna taste great…and your body will thank you for it.

References:

Xue YL, Ahiko T, Miyakawa T, Amino H, Hu F, Furihata K, Kita K, Shirasawa T, Sawano Y, Tanokura M., “Isolation and Caenorhabditis elegans Lifespan Assay of Flavonoids from Onion.”, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 12, May 2011

Green Pepper: Load Up on Antioxidants” Everyday Health, http://www.everydayhealth.com WEB

Henning SM, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Lee RP, Wang P, Bowerman S, Heber D., “Antioxidant capacity and phytochemical content of herbs and spices in dry, fresh and blended herb paste form.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, May 2011

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