Welcome to the first edition of Link, ACAM’s new publication for the general public, devoted to achieving optimal health through natural approaches. It is my honor and pleasure to be a contributor for nutrition and exercise topics. Your feedback is always welcome. If you have any ideas for future articles, I will listen and do my best to present them as I see this as a partnership. As we make our way into 2015, I wondered how everyone was progressing with New Year’s resolutions. Have you eliminated those sodas? Stuck to that early morning exercise routine? Lost those first five pounds? If you haven’t achieved a perfect score, take solace.
The heart of my first article is self-acceptance, a tool that will serve you well once you learn to embrace it. As we head into a new year, give yourself this precious gift and see what a difference it can make in your life. We humans fall short of our goals for as many reasons as the mind can comprehend. I like to attribute shortfalls to “life getting in the way,” my umbrella term for missed opportunities. Most people are their own harshest critic, berating themselves for days after a botched plan to get out on the trail or go to the gym. A family member had a birthday and it would have been rude not to indulge in a piece of cake. Stop beating yourself up mentally and learn to take a deep breath and realize that not all is lost when there has been a slip in plans. Acknowledge to yourself that eating that piece (or forkful) of cake is an important part of living with a glass half full. And that nap you took on your day off? Maybe your body needed it. Remember the words to the old song “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, then start all over again?” Perseverance can’t really exist without acceptance of our human failings; it is what makes perseverance so noble, so hard and so worthwhile. There’s only one way to become better at accepting yourself and that is practice. Don’t let the negative thinking of lost opportunities hold you back. Instead, understand that when you are human, there is no perfect plan and no one size fits all. But there is the power of your thoughts and the belief in your ability to reclaim your goals. Forgive yourself and get on with it. Right now that “it” is fiber, a most formidable tool in our dietary planning.
Fiber is just one of those health topics that won’t go away and for many good reasons. Let’s do a quick review of the benefits and then we’ll get into the yummy stuff: recipes!! My oldest daughter first brought this recipe to my attention and at first I must admit I was skeptical. One bite and I became a believer that beets and sweet potatoes are perfect partners after all!
Root vegetables are a great source of soluble fiber. The combination of beets with sweet potatoes and other vegetables makes for a colorful and hardy wintry side dish. The flavors blend together beautifully into a naturally sweet casserole dish without the addition of any sweetener at all. Not only is it nutrient dense in terms of vitamins and minerals, especially with the added skins, but it provides a good portion of daily fiber. The fennel has the most wonderful aroma. Gone is the old sweet potato casserole laden with brown sugar and covered in marshmallows, once a holiday staple in our household. The fiber content of this dish slows down digestion and helps to prevent rapid insulin release and blood glucose spikes resulting in less fat storage. Fiber also assists with the removal of unhealthy fats, like low density lipoprotein (LDL) or commonly known as the “bad cholesterol” from the body, improving the overall lipid profile.
The only starchy vegetable in the recipe is the sweet potato but don’t let that deter you. Sweet potatoes are a potent source of vitamin A, beta carotene, potassium and quercetin, an anti- inflammatory phytochemical. They are low in calories and contain no fat. Beets are usually considered “sweet” but they only have a glycemic load of five on a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 being the lowest, meaning that they do not trigger an insulin surge due to their natural sweetness.
A caveat about this dish is the variability of the cooking time. With the same number of ingredients, I have had different cooking times, so a bit closer monitoring is required for it to turn out the way you like it. If you like dishes crispy and crunchy, then an hour of cooking time may be sufficient. But if you like food moist, like I do, you may want to cook longer checking the tenderness every 10 minutes until done. I like to drizzle some water on the dish at the one hour mark to make sure it stays moist. Another way to retain moisture is to cover the dish. Experiment until it turns out the way you like it. A further recommendation is to prepare the dish a day ahead of time and rewarm it on the day you will serve it. It gets better with each rewarming!
40 min preparation (if you hand chop) + 60 min cooking plus
Serving Size / Yield
12 one half cup servings; calories per serving: 35; fiber per serving: 2.5 grams
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 3 medium fresh beets cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1purple globe turnip, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 fennel root, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 med. onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 medium sweet potatoes with skins on, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 C.)
- 5 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves or fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
- 1 Cup Vegetable Broth ( Certified Organic preferred)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 425°F. Spray a 17 x 11-inch roasting pan or shallow baking sheet with the cooking spray.
Skins can be left on the beets, turnip and even the sweet potatoes. Cut off both ends and scrub well with a vegetable brush under cold running water. If you want to get your veges squeaky clean, let them soak for 10 minutes or so in a bath of white vinegar (a healthy splash) and water. Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Chop the fennel from the green sprigs to the bulb.
Stir the sweet potatoes, beets, turnip, onions, fennel, garlic, rosemary and oil in the prepared pan. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes. Pour the broth over the vegetables and stir.
Roast for an additional 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender when tested with a fork. The next time I make this dish I am planning to add green chile, hot of course, in honor of my home state, the Land of Enchantment! Use your imagination to give this dish your own local flavor.