How many cyclists out there depend on pasta as a staple of your diet? While you can make some good choices with pasta (such as choosing noodles made with whole grains or garbanzo beans), wheat flour products will almost always fall short of the nutrition offered in vegetables. Sure, you’ll get some vitamins and minerals that are either naturally occurring or added back after refining (enriched flours), but you’re not going to get the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory power of a whole vegetable like Spaghetti Squash. This week, move over pasta, and enter a beta-carotene powerhouse ready to fight your free radicals.
Recipe of the week: Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”
- 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half length-wise, seeds removed and reserved
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 4 – 4 ounce organic chicken breasts (cubed) OR 4- 4 oz. firm tofu slices (cubed)
- 3 small garlic cloves
- 1-2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 4 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
- 4 Tbsp sliced black olives
- 4 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1-2 cups Spinach leaves
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool until able to be easily handled.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté chicken or tofu until cooked through. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.
Using a fork, scrape the stringy pulp from the squash to form noodles, and place in a medium bowl (~ 1 cup per serving). Toss with the cooked chicken or tofu, sauté vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm over 1 cup spinach. Drizzle entire dish with 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Serves 4.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the more we choose vibrant, colorful vegetables and fruits in our diets, the more health-protective nutrients we’ll receive. In fact, these nutrients can reduce our risks of cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic ailments that affect the majority of adults in our country. With this week’s recipe, we’re replacing a poor food choice (refined pasta) or a mediocre one (whole wheat pasta) with an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory whole-food vegetable. As most of my clients will tell you, it’s not just about avoiding “bad foods,” but proactively eating the foods your body needs.
So, to keep our bodies healthy and cycling, spaghetti squash provides a jolt of health in the form of these antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients:
Antioxidants: With orange vegetables, it’s all about the carotenoids, and spaghetti squash is no exception. It provides alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants will work together to fight free radicals, reduce risk of cancer, promote heart health and reduce plague formations, and preserve eye health. Additionally, spaghetti squash contains vitamin C and manganese – both powerful antioxidants.
Anti-inflammatory nutrients: The cell walls of spaghetti squash contain pectin, and this pectin contains components that are anti-inflammatory. What’s more, winter squash provides cucurbitacins to further push the inflammation pendulum towards less chronic bodily inflammation which means less chronic bodily disease.
There’s more. By choosing spaghetti squash, you’ll get fiber, monounsatured fats (seeds), omega-3s, B-vitamins, and copper (important for energy production). I, for one, like energy.
Of note, it is important to choose organic winter squash whenever possible. They happen to be very effective at “pulling” contaminants and chemicals out of soil (they can be used as a non-food crop planted to improve the quality of soil). So, when planted as food, the same can happen in conventional, non-organic soils.
Bonus Recipe: Roasted Spaghetti Squash Seeds
If you made this week’s recipe, you should have some seeds leftover. Don’t throw them out. Instead, separate them from the pulp and place them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast them at 165 degrees F in your oven for 15- 20 minutes (this lower temperature will reduce damaging healthy oils. Add herbs and lightly salt, to taste.
Ready to nourish your body with foods that will help you squash disease and the competition? This week, serve up some spaghetti squash and proactively choose antioxidants and reduced inflammation!
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.