FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Tabbouleh with at Twist

Hi everyone! I don’t know about you, but with this heat I find myself craving cooler foods at the moment. As delicious and versatile as salads can be, it is easy to get stuck in a rut of having the same ol’ greens such as kale and arugula and we can easily forget about the good ol’ basics. Don’t forget about the basics ;) This inspired me to make a slightly more nutritious twist on an all-time favorite of mine: tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh is usually served as a side dish in Middle Eastern cuisine. This recipe can be enjoyed as a side dish (with some hummus, yummy) or simply as a meal by itself.

Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat.  Since wheat is so hard to digest, causes inflammation, sensitivities, and intolerance in so many of us, in this recipe the bulgur wheat is replaced with a naturally gluten-free and hypoallergenic ancient grain: amaranth.

Amaranth is so often overlooked and overshadowed by it’s sister grain: quinoa (technically neither are a grain; they are actually seeds). It is very delicate both in texture and in flavor, andis exceptionally nutritious! Olives and hemp seeds are also included in this recipe, both for the nutritional and taste punch that they add.

What you’ll need:

1 medium cucumber
1 cup parsley (stalks and all!)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup mint leaves
6-8 kalamata olives
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions or chives
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup dry amaranth (makes 1 cup cooked) Use quinoa if you don’t find amaranth
2 tbsp hemp seeds


Measure ½ cup dried amaranth and rinse. Bring ¾ of a cup of water to a boil, add the amaranth, cover and reduce to a simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for another 5 minutes.

Place the rest of the ingredients (except for the hemp seeds) in a food processor and chop. If you don’t have a food processor, bust out those knife skills and chop everything into tiny pieces. When everything is chopped, add in the cooked amaranth and hemp seeds. Stir and enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL VALUE

In my humble opinion, we live in a world where there is excessive worry and, sometimes, a borderline obsession with protein; as if it were the only thing we should be worried about when making food choices!

Protein is an important macronutrient; that, I won’t deny. But so are carbohydrates (from whole-unprocessed foods) and fats (from whole unrefined and unprocessed sources). And so are all of the micronutrients–so often overlooked–that we can find in many foods.

Instead of focusing on foods that simply contain “protein” and that are more-than-often loaded with a lot of other junk, it would be much more beneficial to focus on foods that also contain minerals that support our immune system, our muscles, hormones, moods, digestion, our cognitive health, skin, nails...our whole body; foods that are actually nutrient dense!

So yes, while the amaranth in this recipe does contain a good amount of protein–as do hemp seeds–they are a protein source that is easy for our bodies to digest, absorb and use. (Boom!) And for that reason, I added this bad boy (Amaranth, that is) to the recipe: because it offers a lot more than a good protein content.
 
“What other nutritious 'wonders' does this recipe have?”, you might ask.

Amaranth contains a great dose of calcium (about 8% of your daily value in just ¼ cup of dry seeds actually–that’s double the DV of milk, but don’t get me started on that subject). Amaranth is also high in fiber, contains a hefty amount of iron (20% of you DV), B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, among many others. Talk about full service!

If you don’t find amaranth, you can always use quinoa which is also a great grain/seed and almost equally nutritious.
 
So if that wasn’t enough, this salad is an iron powerhouse. Parsley, hemp seeds and amaranth are all great sources of non-heme iron, plus the parsley is also packed with vitamin C (50% of our daily value in just ½ cup. Wow!) which actually helps our bodies absorb iron. Talk about a 2-for-1 deal.

Ok. I know I’ve given you enough nutrition information (I warned you kitties before that I’m a dork when it comes to nutrition) but having adequate amounts of iron in our diet is essential! 1 in 4 women are deficient in iron. (I’m talking to YOU, ladies!) Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells, it also transports oxygen throughout the body and is critical for converting blood sugar to energy (metabolism).

Last but not least, parsley also contains chlorophyll, folate, pro-vitamin A, and an enormous amount of Vitamin K – which is essential in preventing blood clotting. Parsley, oh, parsley, why aren’t you appreciated more? I love to add this green on salads and even in pesto–it can really help enhance flavor. The lemon juice provides even more vitamin C, while the olives are an amazing source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Have you ever heard (or read) that having olive oil is amazing for our skin and hair due to their vitamin E and antioxidant content? Well, how about we go directly to the source by eating the olives and enjoy their wonders in their true state!

I think that is enough for now. Alimental G, over and out!

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.