A whole foods diet featuring plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and healthful fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, is excellent for overall health. While virtually all whole plant foods are healthful, some specific plants, such as beetroot, arugula, spinach, kale, lettuce, wild radish, bok choy, and cabbage, are especially rich sources of dietary nitrates.
Nitrates are natural compounds the body used to make an important messenger molecule: nitric oxide (NO). NO tells blood vessels to relax, helping to reduce blood pressure. The ability to produce NO on demand diminishes somewhat with aging, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting plenty of nitrate-rich foods in the daily diet. Keeping blood pressure low—within the normal range—is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Feta, Beet, & Bok Choy Salad
3-4 medium to large beets
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. organic butter
2-3 heads baby bok choy, rinsed and chopped
1/3 C. crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 F. Wrap unpeeled beets in heavy aluminum foil coated with 1 Tbsp. of the oil, and about 1/3 of the chopped garlic, making a sealed packet. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until beets can be easily pierced with a thin knife. Remove and allow to cool somewhat. When cool enough to handle, slip off skins and discard. Chop peeled beets into 1/2-inch dice.
Heat remaining oil, plus butter, in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add bok choy and remaining garlic and stir until wilted, but still crunchy/firm. Remove from heat. In a serving bowl, combine beets, feta and greens/garlic mixture, and toss with fresh rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm. Serves 4.
Citrusy Healthy Greens Salad
1 C. baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 C. baby arugula leaves, chopped
1 C. baby kale; rinsed, ribs removed, and chopped
1 whole grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
1 whole naval orange, peeled and sectioned
1/2 small red onion, peeled and sliced fine
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
Juice of 1/2 whole lemon
Juice of 1/2 whole lime
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. white vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
In a salad bowl, combine greens. Top with citrus fruit sections and nuts and toss gently. In a measuring cup, combine dressing ingredients. Using an immersion blender, whisk ingredients thoroughly. Drizzle over salad, toss, and serve cold.
Southeast Asian Cooked Cabbage with Peas
1 head cabbage, shredded or finely chopped
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1-inch section of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 C. fresh or frozen (thawed) green peas
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add ginger, cumin seeds and turmeric and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add cabbage, paprika, coriander, and salt. Stir to mix, and add about 1 C. water. Cover and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Cabbage should be tender but not overcooked. Add green peas, stir, and allow to heat through, about one additional minute. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Trying to incorporate these specific whole plant foods each day can be tough. Try Berkeley Life’s Beetroot Powder, which helps promote nitric oxide levels for heart health, by adding it to your morning smoothie.