With Christmas approaching, now is the time to think about including some extra healthy recipes in your holiday meal planning. Red is the colour this month and my juice, pasta sauce and deli salad are all rich in the red pigment lycopene, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which prevents DNA damage. Studies suggest that a lycopene-rich diet could protect against cancer, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration. Tomatoes are the main source of lycopene for most people, but guavas and watermelon actually contain higher levels. Other good sources of lycopene are papaya, red and pink grapefruit and red peppers. Lycopene is better absorbed by the body from cooked fruit and vegetables, particularly in the presence of oil, which is why I have included a red sauce involving long slow cooking with plenty of olive oil!
These red recipes are somewhat connected – add the juice from the sauce tomatoes to the juice recipe, and stir leftover red deli salad into the pasta sauce.
Sweet red juice
4 carrots, roughly chopped
Juice from tinned tomatoes
One inch peeled ginger
Juice all ingredients and drink immediately. More fresh (vegetable-based) juice during the party season is a good way to offset the impact of any over-indulgence.
Red pasta sauce
400g tin plum tomatoes, drained
Three cloves of garlic
One whole red chilli (optional)
Two romano peppers, chopped
One tsp sumac
One tsp mixed herbs
Cook the garlic and chilli till the garlic is browned in good-quality olive oil. Add tomatoes, peppers, herbs and spice and simmer, very slowly, for up to two hours till you have a very thick sauce. If it shows signs of drying up, then add more olive oil. By the way, I picked up the tip about using a whole chilli from The Guardian cookery section – it infuses the sauce with heat and, if feeling brave, you can eat it with the sauce, otherwise discard. This saves chopping the chilli (and, for me, a painful experience when next putting in my contact lenses!).
Serve with pasta and something green (maybe a handful of spinach thrown in towards the end of the cooking). If you make double quantities, eating it cold, or re-heated, will increase the soluble fibre content of the pasta and help stabilise blood glucose levels.
Red deli salad
One tub of sun-dried tomatoes
One tub of grilled red peppers
One tub of your favourite olives
Pack of good quality tomatoes, halved/chopped
Mix all ingredients and serve with a splash of cold-pressed flaxseed or olive oil. This salad works very well with cooked salmon or smoked mackerel for a simple healthy meal or as part of a festive buffet.