Executive Chef Daniel Chong-Jimenez says “think vegetables” to stay cool
Have you ever felt too hot, even though the day was registering a cool temperature? No matter what you did, did you still feel hot?
Evidence suggests that some foods have a prolonged heating effect on the body. The technical language used says that the thermic effect of certain foods can be sustained over a longer than usual period of time. Folks eating mostly meats may find this happening to them.
In this case, it’s all about calories. For example, a well-marbled, 12-ounce steak with mashed potatoes is a high-calorie meal at 1500 calories. Eating like this too often will result in health issues and the added calories will cause your metabolism to increase heat production, thereby making you feel hotter. During the cold New England winter this might be a good thing, but the residual, unburned calories will lead to weight gain eventually. Besides, there are healthier ways to keep warm.
Keeping cool, however, is easier when you understand how certain foods can help. To feel cool and comfortable in the spring and summer eat all forms of green and colorful vegetables. Some believe that leafy, flowering vegetables have a “cooling” effect. This is true, but not because the food is “working” to cool you down. This occurs because plant-derived foods have fewer calories and more fiber than animal-derived foods. The higher fiber content will cause a feeling of satiety sooner so you feel fuller faster. Additionally, since calories are fewer, the body has less to burn. The body slows down the “burn” and your body generates less heat.
While vegetables hold fewer calories than meats, they also provide you with nourishing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, among other nutrients. The variety of nutrients carried by plants is essential to long-term health. It is important to not overcook vegetables; some greens are best eaten raw, while others are better tasting slightly blanched or quickly steeped in boiling water for a brief period. Steaming lightly is a good cooking method. Stir-frying adds great flavor by caramelizing vegetable sugars without overcooking. If you cannot eat vegetables that are not thoroughly cooked, eat them as you like them. Not all nutrients are lost through cooking. Indeed, many antioxidants are retained even after full cooking. Antioxidants have been around forever, but only recently has their importance been appreciated.
All darkly or brightly colored vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants. These compounds are known to help prevent cancers and related diseases. A lesser known attribute is that they are crucial to good cellular metabolism, meaning that they help cells burn energy more efficiently by supporting the transport of fats and other energy forms into the mitochondria, where they processed into energy, since mitochondria are the energy factories inside each cell.
A diet based mostly on vegetables is very healthy, but it may not work for most people. Adding moderate amounts of lean meat and other animal proteins is a great way to live healthy. Occasional “celebrating” with richer food is OK because the negative consequences are watered down by healthy living. In other words, we have to earn our right to sinful eating.
Here is a recipe I think is just right for a cooling summer soup:
Chilled Arugula Soup with Chevre
By Daniel Chong-Jiménez
4 cups chopped arugula
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup diced waxy yellow potato (Yukon Gold)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4cup chopped celery
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chevre
salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a small sauce pot to medium heat.
- Add the olive oil.
- Add the potatoes, onions and celery and cook until translucent.
- Add the broth and spices and simmer covered until the potatoes are soft.
- Add the arugula and cook until it wilts.
- Remove from the heat and purée to a velvety consistency.
- Chill the soup.
- Once cool, add the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish each portion with chevre.
Nutrition Facts per portion:
83 kcal, 4 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fat