Vegan / Raw / Vegetarian / Gluten-free / Dairy-free / Sugar-free
Such a beautiful time of year. This is my go-to winter salad while glorious organic pears are in season. The mixture of toasted brazil nuts, peppery watercress, crisp salad leaves and sweet pear coupled with the zestiness of lemon is a match made in heaven. I will never tire of this simple delight.
It amazes me how a little heat can change the taste of a food entirely. Nuts and seeds grow richer, oiler and more intense in flavour, toasting millet and quinoa before cooking bring depth and flavour to the otherwise bland grains, and with some fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and brassicas, a little heat can actually increase nutrients, making them more assimilable and in some cases, safer to consume.
Lets have a little chat about brassicas for a moment. Many do not know that the brassica family, which includes cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbages, mustard greens, kohl rabi, bok choi and turnip contain glucosinolates, the chemicals credited with anti-cancer effects. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the super-star qualities they possess, these same chemicals are also known to inhibit thyroid function (i.e. are goitrogenic).
The first acceptable evidence was the work of Chesney et al., in 1928 which reported cabbage feed (as a staple) could cause goiter in rabbits. The study explains, “When eaten raw, brassica vegetables release the enzyme myrosinase, which accelerates the hydrolysis of glucosinolates; the cooking process largely deactivates the myrosinase in these vegetables.”(1)
Myrosinase released when raw brassica vegetables are eaten, converts glucophoranin into sulforaphane, a molecule that exhibits anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties (2). Cooked brassica vegetables do not have a goitrogenic effect. But here's the catch; if cruciferous vegetables are heated the risk of thyroid suppression is neutralised, but it also reduces the anti-cancer benefit. If the vegetables are cooked, the myrosinase is destroyed and sulforaphane yield is low. For example, Brussels sprouts act as goitrogens if eaten raw, but when cooked they are safe to eat for those with thyroid conditions. Raw broccoli consumption lowers bladder cancer risk or reoccurrence while cooked broccoli offers little if any protection.
So, what's my answer to the catch 22 cancer/thyroid dysfunction dilemma? Eat a good mixture of both cooked and raw cruciferous vegetables. I wouldn't dream of heating the rocket that's about to add a delicious pepperiness to my salad, nor would I give up my sauerkraut addiction and I'm totally in love with raw cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli. However, those with a serious thyroid condition may want to consider eliminating the raw version of these foods for a while and enjoying some lightly steamed brassicas instead.
I believe it's best to look at something with a 'holistic' paradigm rather than a reductionist paradigm. For example, cacao contains theobromine, an alkaloid resembling caffeine in its physiological effects and some would say to steer clear of of it. But if we were to eliminate this food from our diets altogether for this reason alone, we would miss out on all of the other impressive nutritional properties this delicious bean has to offer, such as being a rich source of iron, antioxidants, calcium and magnesium and it's ability to lower free radicals and stimulate the release of endorphins in the body. It would then be best to consume cacao every once in a while rather than daily - but still enjoy it despite this little downfall. I like to look at eating raw and cooked brassicas in the same way.
It's good to know so you can make an informed decision either way and see for yourself if this small dietary change may make the difference to your thyroid function.
Each new season brings a new and exciting addition to this easily changeable dish. Other favourite combinations of mine are orange segments and crisp celery, pomegranate and rocket, and apple and walnut.
THE PERFECT WINTER SALAD
A good handful of crisp lettuce leaves
A good handful of watercress
1 organic pear
5 organic brazil nuts
Low sodium & alcohol-free tamari (I use spiral organics) or coconut aminos
Organic flaxseed or olive oil - optional
- Wash lettuce and watercress and place into bowls.
- Slice the pear and arrange atop the greens.
- Roughly chop the brazil nuts and toast in a dry skillet (no oil in pan.) Keep an eye on them as they brown all of a sudden. Leave to cool slightly and then scatter them over the pear and greens.
- Drizzle lemon juice, flaxseed oil and a splash of tamari over the salad and serve.
This salad is so simple yet bursts with flavour and is filled with the goodies our bodies need during these cooler months. I hope you love this as much as our family does!