What to do with a cucumber! …. A smoothie with banana, peanut butter and maple syrup

Cucumbers are this kind of vegetable that I find boring. Mostly because I have learnt (when I was living in France) to make one major recipe with them, cucumber salad… cucumber salad… mixed salad with cucumber for a change.

To say the truth, I also enjoy cucumber in sandwich: French baguette, brie, cucumber and sunflower sprouts. Yummy but this is only a few slices of cucumber… not really enough.

As I try to diversify my diet, each time I go to the market or the small “fruits and vegetables” shop near my apartment, I can’t resist the temptation. And each time, 2 to 3 cucumbers are irremediably dropping into my shopping basket. This happens not only because they are cheap but also because I love their freshness.

And to be honest, I am also aware that cucumber is good for your health!

I know, I know we are focusing on the rainbow colors for fruits and vegetables, a real obsession because we have learnt that more colourful are the veggies and fruits, better this is for your health.

But one of the general rules in nutrition and health sciences that I have learnt in my previous life (when I was a nutrition scientist) is the fact that nothing is everlasting. And as a result, I was not surprise when we have rediscovered a few years ago that white vegetables are also good for our health.

White is now part of the “rainbow colours” good for your health, and cucumber is one of the good white veggies.

Let’s review why cucumber is good for your health…

Despite the fact that cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 %) water, they are rich in vitamin K (21 % of daily intake per 100 grams), B vitamins (~10%), copper (2%), potassium (4%), vitamin C (5%), and manganese (4%). In addition, they contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.

Then …

Cucumber can flush out toxins. All that water in cucumber acts as a virtual broom, sweeping waste products out of your system. With regular use, cucumber is known to dissolve kidney stones.

Cucumber can protect your brain because of its anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin content that appears to play an important role in brain health by improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline.

It will reduce your risk of cancer because it contains polyphenols called lignans that may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. It also contains phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-cancer properties.

It fights Inflammation by “cooling” the inflammatory response in your body, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes.

Cucumbers have antioxidant properties because they contain numerous antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene as well as flavonoids that provide additional benefits like “natural antihistamine ” & anticancer properties and that can also lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

It can help to manage stress because it contains multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.

Cucumber can support your digestive health because it is rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber.Cucumber skins contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

It can support heart health because of its contain in potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure levels.

Cucumbers can help with diabetes and cholesterol. It contains a hormone which is needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin which has been found to be beneficial to diabetic patients. It also contains sterols that may help reduce bad cholesterol levels.

It can promote joint health, relieves gout and arthritis pain. Cucumber is an excellent source of silica, which is known to help promotes joint health by strengthening the connective tissues.

Who have thought that this watery fruit (yes, this is a fruit) is a super food!

One thing I have learnt over the past two years is the fact that cucumbers make a great base for vegetable juice as well as smoothie because of its mild flavor and high water content. And this is how I really enjoy my 3 cucumbers in a weekly basis.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe:

 

Servings: 4          Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 to 3 bananas cut into chunks

1 cucumber sliced

2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter

1 to 2 tablespoons of organic maple syrup

1 cup of 2% milk (or almond milk as an alternative)

If you want to increase your protein intake, you can add 1 to 2 scoops of rice or egg protein

6 ice cubes

Preparation

Put all ingredients into a blender in the order listed and blend until smooth.

Blending times may vary depending on the type of blender you own. If you have a Vitamix blender, start the blender off on variable 1 and quickly increase to variable 10, then to high.  Let blend for about 20-30 seconds on high.

I love the combination banana, peanut butter and maple syrup, which is softened by the freshness of the cucumber. It is really refreshing!

I drink some for breakfast and I keep one glass for later in the day as a snack – easy to carry in a thermos, easy to drink when you are in the go.

I keep the leftover (if any) in the fridge for 24 hours maximum.

Bonne Appetite!

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A Nutritious Smoothie – Kale, Cucumber, Banana and Honey

Kale is not the kind of vegetable that I was used to eat when I lived in France. In fact, I have never seen a leaf of kale at the farmers’ market of Beaune (the city where I was born in Burgundy) until recently. This green leafy vegetable was not part of the French culinary repertoire that includes among others spinach, parsley, green cabbage, lettuce, chicory, dandelions and Swiss chard.

I have discovered kale here in Canada, but I was quite skeptical. Its dark green color and the texture of the leaves have been for me a “no, not at all” signal. It was difficult for me to bypass my own inhibition.

Like a child, I have rejected this vegetable for many years because of its two physical aspects: dark color and thickness. They were synonymous in my subconscious of strong flavor, too many fibers and as a result: difficulty to swallow. This was my gripe! I was conditioned by my past experience and own boundaries. I adore bright green vegetable with tender leaves. They are so delicious. Kale was far different from the vegetables I have learnt to enjoy when I was younger. This kale might be just another food that I haven’t tried and liked yet; but it was not won in advance.

Appetite for a specific food is not simply a response to physiological or nutritional needs. It has also a psychological and emotional component. In fact, our relation to food is largely a function of expectation, emulation and adaptation. It is why it can be so challenging for people to modify their food behaviors. I went through this kind of challenges.

Interestingly, “our attitudes toward, and responses to, certain foods can be altered enormously by the contexts in which we encounter them, the number of other people we see eating them, the way they do or don’t dovetail with the diets we mean to maintain” (Frank Bruni, New York Time). And it is exactly what happened to me.

During the first few years in Canada, I have tried to keep my French way to eat (homemade food, a lot of veggies & fruits). But over time, I have gradually changed, not only because of the people I worked with and my new friends, but also because of my busy professional life. I have adopted the North American diet because it suited my new life style and social group: a lot of restaurants, eating on the go, all the time on the road – sandwiches and muffins almost every day, a lot of sugar, very little fruit and vegetable intake.

And one day, I woke up. I said no, not anymore. I needed to be more watchful of my weight and energy. I needed to reconnect with the French culinary practices, my family’s farmer roots. I needed to learn again to enjoy vegetables & fruits and more simply, to reconnect with good healthy food. I went to the farmers’ market here in Toronto where I met kale again. This time it was inescapable. I needed to try it, I needed to like it!

Kale is what we call the “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse”.  It provides an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.  Kale’s nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates.

Without sufficient intake of antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, and we can experience a metabolic problem called “oxidative stress.” Without sufficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, regulation of our inflammatory system can become compromised, and we can experience the problem of chronic inflammation. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation — and the combination of these metabolic problems — are risk factors for development of cancer.

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3 to 4 bananas

Now I try to eat kale 2-4 times per week, and I like to have a smoothie for my breakfast or during the day as a snack. It is a great way to enjoy kale. I have read a lot about kale, I have reviewed a lot of smoothie recipes that contain kale. One of my major issues, there was not enough kale. I wanted to boost my kale consumption, and consequently, the nutritional and health impact of this powerful vegetable. I have tried different combinations: kale with berries, pineapple, pear, yogurt, almond…Too much kale was a challenge, it does not necessary interact well with other ingredients. At that point, I didn’t like the color and/or the taste.

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Half a cucumber

Making smoothies, it is a constant learning process. I try new combinations. I try to be creative, I learn and move on.

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200 g of kale

After many weeks of experimentation, I came to the conclusion – simplicity is the best! My smoothie contains banana, kale, cucumber and honey. Each cup brings 40 to 50 grams of kale. The bitter, peppery flavor of kale is counterbalanced by the sweet combination of banana, raw honey and bee pollen. Cucumber is here to add water but also its refreshing flavor that balances appropriately the sweetness of banana and honey. An interesting alchemy! I always keep one cup in a thermos for later in the day. The various ingredients have time to settle down and to develop new flavors. It is so yummy! I discover each time a new alchemy of flavors that was not necessary here when the smoothie was just ready to drink. You really need to try.

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One table spoon of honey, 1/2 teaspoon of bee pollen and 6 ice cubes

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe:

Serving: 4 to 5 cups

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Add 2 to 3 cups water

Ingredients:

3 medium or 4 small bananas (mature or well mature)

Half a cucumber (medium size)

6 to 8 leafs of kale (200 g)

If you are using a Vitamix, do not remove the stem. If you are using another kind of blender, remove the stem but increase the number of leafs (10 to 12).

1 tablespoon of raw honey

1/2 teaspoon of pure bee pollen

2 to 3 cups of cold water (depending if you like the consistency more liquid or not)

5 to 7 ice cubes

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Purée until smooth

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. With my Vitamix, I increase gradually the speed and mix at maximum speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Simple and easy to do! Your smoothie is ready.

Bonne Appetite!

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Ready for my snack

 

kale 1

kale 2