Green Goddess for Athletes. You read that right, but were talking about a delicious, healthful dressing; and not a beautiful oddly-pigmented Greek myth. Even so, stick with me, it will be worth it.
Why take the time to make your own dressing when you could just buy it? It’s all about what you’ll gain from our ingredients, and what you’ll avoid from commercial brands. In with the good, and out with the bad.
And, maybe, just maybe, if you eat enough of it over delicious fresh greens, you may just turn into a Cycling Green God(dess) yourself.
Recipe of the Week: Green Goddess Dressing
- 1 avocado, peel and pit removed
- Juice of one lemon + 2 tsp zest
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ c coconut milk (full fat from can)
- 1 tsp worchestershire sauce
- 2 tbs green onions or 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tbs fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add water if needed for desired consistency. Use for salad dressing, vegetable dip, or over cooked meat/protein and veggies.
No, avocados aren’t in your typical green goddess dressing. Here’s why they are in ours:
- Carotenoids: When I think of carotenoids, I usually think of carrots and other orange or red vegetables. However, avocados are a great source (as is our other green friend, spinach link to http://lovingthebike.com/cycling-nurition/loving-the-bite-green-berry-smoothie). In fact, they contain a spectacular array of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin, many of which directly support eye health. It’s this diverse and vast array of carotenoids that researchers believe is responsible for much of an avocado’s anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Carotenoid Absorption: Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene, increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to otherwise avocado-free vegetables, such as in a salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%.
- Healthy Fats: Like other sources of healthy fats, avocados have been villianized as “fattening” in recent history (most fat storage issues have to do with an over-consumption of carbs, not fats!). While it’s true that they are 85% fat, the fats provide many health benefits. They are heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, and they promote healthy blood sugars.
- Anti-inflammatory Factors: First, the phytosterols that account for a major portion of avocado fats (including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol), are key supporters of our inflammatory system that helps keep inflammation under control. The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis.
- Fiber: Fiber is one key to overall wellness and discourages most all chronic diseases. One-half cup of avocado provides 3-4 grams of fiber (and only 1 grams of sugar).
- Lower weight and BMI: In broad food intake studies, participants that routinely eat avocados have been determined to be lower in weight and lower in body mass index than non-consumers. Of course, this can be due to a variety of factors (maybe avocado-eater are overall healthier eaters or more active). No matter the reason, let’s eat some avos!
- Cancer prevention: Avocados (specifically avocado extract) have been studied and determined to help prevent the occurrence of cancers in the mouth, skin, breast and prostate gland. These results are likely due to the unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. Since cancer risk factors almost always include excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants), it makes perfect sense that avocados reduce risk. But, here is where the avocado story gets especially interesting. In animal and lab studies of healthy cells, avocado works to improve inflammatory and oxidative stress levels. But in cancer cells, avocado works to increase oxidative stress and shift the cancer cells over into a programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis), lessening the cancer cell numbers. Wow.
- Glutathione: Remember our friend glutathione – the super antioxidant that healthy cells produce when they’re given the right nutrients (see link http://lovingthebike.com/nutrition-tips/nutrition-tip-february-5-2011). Avocados happen to be a good source of this wonder-nutrient.
- Vitamin E: Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health. Specifically, it is an antioxidant that supports brain, cardiovascular, and respiratory health.
Instead of avocados, you’ll usually find soybean or another vegetable oil in Green Goddess dressing. In fact, this is most often the first ingredient on the list, meaning the most abundant in the dressing. Or, in other recipes, you’ll likely find mayonnaise, which is also full of soybean or vegetable oils. This is an issue. Here’s why:
Fats with the double bond at the 6th carbon, or omega-6 fats, compete with omega-3 fats to steer our bodies’ production of hormones toward more chronic inflammation and away from reduced chronic inflammation. Omega-6s are primarily found in plant oils, especially grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, and soybean oil. They are also found in whole grains, whole grain products, and the meats of animals that are not grazed but fed grains. These fats are widely used in the body and readily absorbed. And, a small amount is necessary to our health.
However, the experts who have studied the effects of a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio warn that over-consumptions of omega-6s increases the risk of many diseases including heart attacks, thrombotic stroke, arrhythmia, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, inflammation, mood disorders, obesity, and cancer (especially breast and prostate cancer).
While small amounts of these fats are important, they are so abundant naturally in foods, that you don’t need to go out of your way to get them. In fact, while concentrating on getting as much omega-3s as possible, you’ll likely get plenty as these fats are often found in varying amounts in the same foods (so choose the ones that are high omega-3 and lower omega-6). And, in fact, we should go out of our way to minimize them. They should only make up a very limited portion of our diet. Take home message: Put down any commercial product with soybean oil in it (or at least any with it in the first 5 ingredients). What’s this mean to you You’re either going to need to make your dressing, or be extra-choosey at the store. For more information, click here.
Bonus Recipe: All-Purpose Avocado Mayo:
Mix 1 avocado, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 6 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbsp. water (or as needed for desired consistency) until smooth. Use as a sandwich spread or in any recipe that calls for mayonnaise.
This week, go green, and go goddess. It’s amazing what small changes in your overall diet can do. Don’t set yourself up for higher risk of disease. Instead, proactively consume the good, and omit the bad.
Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.
image c/o nsmbl.nl