The continued buzz around health food trends often leaves us confused. We forget what things like hemp seeds, apple cider vinegar, teff, zoodles, turmeric and kelp actually do, let alone how to incorporate them into our diet. In hopes of better educating ourselves (and you), we turned to three resources for healthy eating. Three nutrient-packed foods are explained by the experts, who also share their favorite ways to use the ingredient (recipes included!).

Miso Paste

Expert: Laura Lea of LL Balanced

What it is:

“Miso paste is the byproduct of a fermentation process between soy beans, rice or barley and other grains (or a mixture), salt, water and a fungus/culture. Once the bean and/or grain is inoculated, it becomes something called koji. The koji starter is then fermented from anywhere between three months and three years, and the result is an incredibly healthful paste. I primarily use and suggest using shorter ferments, which create a mild white and slightly sweet miso.”

Why it’s good for you:

“Miso is high in enzymes, which help aid in the breakdown and digestion of food. (Read more here.) Miso is also replete with beneficial bacteria, which improves gut health. A healthy gut can aid with cravings, hormonal balance, inflammation and even mood; studies have shown a link between certain intestinal microbes, depression and anxiety. (Read more here.)”

How to use it:

“Besides the health benefits, I love miso paste for its rich flavor, which is full of umami. Umami is the savory fifth taste (in addition to sweet, sour, salty and bitter), and it corresponds to the presence of L-glutamate, an amino acid found primarily in meats and cheeses. To put it simply, L-glutamate makes food taste really good and satisfying! Miso paste is a great way to add umami to plant-based and/or dairy-free dishes, which is how I use it primarily.”

Laura Lea’s suggestions include:

  • Add 1-2 teaspoons of miso paste into dairy-free pesto (or any kind of pesto!).
  • Whisk it into a dijon vinaigrette and massage it into kale or other tough greens for an incredible salad.
  • Add a bit to your traditional grilling marinade; it will help tenderize the meat.
  • Thin it out with a bit of avocado oil and honey, and spread on chicken or fish then roast in the oven.
  • Stir it into any curry, soup, stew or chili for added depth of flavor.
  • Blend 1/2 teaspoon into the wet ingredients of a chocolate chip cookie recipe!
  • Throw a few teaspoons into an Asian-inspired stir-fry sauce or dipping sauce.
  • Make miso butter by whisking it into softened butter then allowing it to chill for a few hours in the fridge. This is amazing with some fresh chives as well, enjoyed on scrambled eggs, avocado toast or roasted vegetables.

Recipe to try:

Roasted Beet & Miso Chickpea Curry

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cup beets, peeled & diced into 1-inch pieces (approximately 2 small or 1 large)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1-1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons mild white miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup (can also omit)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 1 (15-ounce) can full fat coconut milk (can sub light canned)
  • 1/2 cup shallots, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (approximately 2 small or 1 large, sub sweet yellow onion)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups frozen chopped organic spinach

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, toss together beets, 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Spread beets onto baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and fork-tender but not mushy.
  3. While beets are roasting: In a small bowl, whisk together miso paste, honey, cumin, paprika, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Drain and rinse your chickpeas. Open can of coconut milk. Dice shallots and mince garlic.
  4. Heat a large sauté pan to medium and add remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. When oil moves quickly around the pan, add shallots. Cook, stirring every minute, until shallots are softened and fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Turn heat to low and add garlic as well as miso/spice mixture. Cook, stirring until garlic is fragrant and ingredients are evenly distributed through shallots, another 30 seconds or so.
  5. Add stock, beets, chickpeas and coconut milk to pan and bring to a rapid simmer (not completely boiling but not just little bubbles). Stir to combine ingredients evenly. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by around 1/3-1/2 and has thickened. Taste for more salt and add accordingly. Turn heat off and stir in spinach. Once spinach has thawed and is evenly incorporated throughout curry, serve immediately. Curry will keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator up to five days.
Roasted Beet & Miso Chickpea Curry

Try miso in the form of roasted beet & miso chickpea curry! Image: LL Balanced

Spirulina

Expert: McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped

What is is:

“Spirulina is a type of blue-green micro-algae that’s grown and harvested from very alkaline water sources. It was long used by the Aztecs as a food source because of its potent nutrient content (especially protein).”

Why it is good for you:

“Spirulina is rich in minerals, amino acids (i.e. the building blocks of protein, which is vital for overall health, but especially hair, skin, nails and rebuilding lean muscle tissue).”

How to use it:

“Add 1-2 tablespoons in your favorite shake in the morning.”

Recipe to try:

Stripped Green Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup coconut water (or double the filtered water)
  • 1 large bunch (5 heaping handfuls) of organic lacinato kale/regular kale
  • 1 large head of organic romaine
  • 5-7 large stalks of organic celery, chopped
  • 1 organic apple, cored and chopped
  • 1-2 bananas, chopped
  • ½ cup organic cucumber, chopped
  • ½ cup of cilantro
  • ½ cup of parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon/Meyer lemon
  • 4 brazil nuts
  • dash of cayenne (optional yet recommended)
  • dash of cinnamon (optional yet recommended)
  • dash of turmeric (optional yet recommended)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Using the Vitamix or a high-speed blender, pour filtered water(s) into the blender.
  2. Add chopped celery stalks and romaine lettuce first, and turn on low speed to purée.
  3. Gradually increase the speed and add chopped kale.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until creamy!
  5. At this point you may add more water to achieve your desired consistency.
  6. Pour into individual airtight mason jars or other airtight liquid container. (I recommend making smoothies and then immediately enjoying them, but if you do make a large batch you can store it for two days in a jar.)

Sneak some spirulina into your smoothie. Image: Nutrition Stripped

Jackfruit

Expert: Bailey Rae of The Local Vegan

What it is:

“Jackfruit originates from Southeast Asia. When harvested ‘young’ it makes a fantastic meat substitute! It best resembles a pulled pork or chicken in texture, but has a neutral flavor profile, allowing you to season it however you’d like. I have been experimenting with jackfruit for almost two years, and I am thrilled to see it’s gaining the popularity it deserves.”

Why it’s good for you:

“It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, carbohydrates, electrolytes, fiber and protein, but it contains no cholesterol or saturated fat.”

How to use it:

“I love using it in tacos, soups (think chicken tortilla soup) or a classic pulled BBQ sandwich.One of my most popular recipes is my jackfruit gyros (recipe below). The jackfruit is sautéed and caramelized in a delicious blend of Greek seasonings making it irresistible.”

Recipe to try:

Jackfruit Gyros

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (20-ounce) can young, green jackfruit in water or brine, rinsed, drained and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4 pita loaves, warmed
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced tomato
  • tzatziki sauce (store bought or homemade)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Use your fingers to shred the jackfruit, set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes with a pinch of salt.
  3. Add the garlic and jackfruit. Stir to combine and sauté for 20 minutes, until browned and caramelized.
  4. Stir in the oregano, coriander, cumin, soy sauce and broth. Simmer for 10 minutes, until liquid has evaporated.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the jackfruit mixture into warm pitas along with shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and tzatziki sauce.

It looks like meat, but it’s not. We are ready to see what it tastes like! Image: The Local Vegan

Are you ready to see for yourself just how super these foods are? Try these recipes at home!

The information provided should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional before making major changes to your diet and fitness routine.

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