Food & Drink

What’s cookin’? A healthy diet, based on decades of research

Beans are in fact magical. They form a complete protein when eaten with rice and promote healthy gut flora so that good bacteria can thrive, says Dan Buettner, author of ‘The Blue Zones’ (National Geographic, 2012), who studies aging in areas of the world where people often live to age 100 or more. “A cup a day may add three or four years to your life,” he says.
Beans are in fact magical. They form a complete protein when eaten with rice and promote healthy gut flora so that good bacteria can thrive, says Dan Buettner, author of ‘The Blue Zones’ (National Geographic, 2012), who studies aging in areas of the world where people often live to age 100 or more. “A cup a day may add three or four years to your life,” he says. JOHNNY MILLER

The new way to eat is a lot like the old way to eat, but bolstered by decades of research. These principles put the focus back on whole, seasonal foods — and put happiness into every bite.

1. Expand your food horizons.

The first “rule” of eating is not to rule anything out completely, be it dairy, fat or sweets. Instead, go for a wide variety of whole foods that you truly love, prepared in delicious ways. Kathie Madonna Swift, an integrative clinical nutritionist and co-author of “The Swift Diet” (Avery, 2014), suggests filling your plate with nutritious, colorful foods. “At least half of the circle should be vegetables, a quarter protein and the other quarter a starchy vegetable or grain, like quinoa or barley. In the middle, add in healthy fats like nuts and seeds.”

2. Get satisfaction.

Time and time again, studies have shown that when we eat what we want and slow down, turn off screens, and pay attention to tastes, smells and textures, we feel sated long before overdoing it. When you eat, take a break and break bread with a friend, a co-worker or family.

3. Let things simmer.

Slow food is superpowered food. “Water-cooking methods — steaming, making soups and stews — preserve nutrients and don’t create glycation; when meat is cooked quickly at a high temperature, it produces toxins that increase inflammation in the body,” says Swift.

So plug in your slow cooker, and if you grill often, marinate meat in an acid like vinegar or lime juice first: “It blunts production of some damaging molecules.”

4. Be smart about starch.

Incorporate good, old-fashioned rice (bonus points for the brown kind, which has a lower glycemic index) or potatoes (but hold the fries) into meals, along with more exotic varieties, such as black rice (shown to have anti-inflammatory properties) or amaranth (rich in iron, calcium and amino acids).

5. See seafood differently.

Fish is the original smart food. “It’s full of B12 and nutrients related to brain health,” says Swift. But given concerns like high mercury levels in larger species and overfished oceans, veer away from big guys like tuna and swordfish, and think smaller, as in whole sardines, anchovies, herring or this simply roasted Spanish mackerel. (When in doubt, check the Marine Stewardship Council website: msc.org.) Try tinned varieties, too.

6. Go for full fat.

“Look for milk from pastured cows that eat grass, and choose whole-milk products, whether cheese or yogurt,” says Swift. “The fat can be a source of valuable nutrients.”

7. Fill up on fiber.

Yes, vegetables are brimming with antioxidants and vitamins. But the main reason to pile on fresh produce, says Swift, is fiber. We need 25 to 38 grams a day. Fiber aids digestion and helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation. Go for local varieties when possible.

8. Eat sweets with intention.

When it comes to dessert, zero-tolerance policies don’t work. The solution? Just eat it! But do so mindfully, and occasionally. “A fruity yogurt can have 22 grams of sugar, while an Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donut has 10,” says Darya Rose, a neuroscientist and author of “Foodist” (HarperOne, 2013). “You can be getting the equivalent of two donuts’ worth of sugar while thinking you’re eating healthfully.”

9. Take the spice route.

“Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves — they’re good for your brain and gut, and anti-inflammatory,” says Swift. They’re also full of antioxidants, delicious and easy to incorporate into every dish, from morning oatmeal to soup to stir-fries.

10. Lock it in for life.

To eat well forever, not just for the moment, “focus on real food and build habits around it,” Rose says. “Probably the most important one is to cook for yourself.” The next step is to figure out simple, good-for-you weekday meals that you enjoy eating, and keep the fixings on hand.

“If you nail breakfast and lunch daily, that’s a huge win,” says Rose. “Then if you cook dinner three or four nights a week and are fairly active, you’ll be healthier. It’s really hard to eat enough on a Saturday to undo all of that.”

For more recipes and additional tips, visit www.marthastewart.com. Questions or comments should be sent to: askmartha@marthastewart.com.

Rice-and-bean salad bowl with tahini sauce

Look for beans in BPA-free cans — or cook your own!

Serves 4

1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (14 ounces) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1/4 head red cabbage, cut into thin slices

2 avocados, cut into wedges

1 roasted red bell pepper (from a 12-ounce jar), coarsely chopped

1 small cucumber, cut into rounds

2 cups upland cress or watercress, tough stems removed

Tahini sauce (see recipe below), for serving

1. In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, both kinds of beans, parsley, onion, celery, lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bean salad can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days.

2. For each serving, place  3/4 cup cooked rice and 3/4 cup bean salad in a bowl; add some cabbage, avocados, roasted pepper, cucumber and cress. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with more oil, and squeeze a lemon wedge over it. Drizzle with tahini sauce; serve.

Tahini sauce

Makes  1/2 cup

 1/4 cup tahini

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt

1 clove garlic

Combine tahini, lemon juice and 2 to 3 tablespoons water (enough to create consistency of honey) until smooth; season with salt. Finely grate garlic on a microplane; stir into sauce. Adjust seasoning as desired. Sauce can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days.

Whole roasted mackerel

Serve with cooked whole grains, such as couscous, bulgur or barley.

Serves 6

1 whole Spanish mackerel (about 2 pounds), cleaned, head and tail left intact

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

6 sprigs thyme

6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

12 fresh chives

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Using a sharp knife, make a few slashes in skin on both sides of fish. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle fish on both sides with oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange a few lemon slices in cavity, and tuck the rest underneath fish. Tuck a handful of herbs into cavity; coarsely chop remainder and sprinkle over fish. Roast until fish is opaque and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. To serve, use a thin-bladed knife to cut fillet free from top side of fish. Gently transfer fillet to a cutting board with a spatula. Starting from the tail, slowly lift spine to separate it from bottom fillet. Slice each fillet crosswise into three portions; serve.

Steamed vegetable salad with walnut oil

Keep a kettle of boiling water nearby to easily refill the steamer pot.

Serves 6

1 bunch broccolini, trimmed

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 yellow squash, cut into  1/4-inch slices

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 bunch multicolored carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces

1 bunch baby golden beets, peeled and cut into wedges

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil

Lemon wedges, for serving

1/4 cup spicy microgreens, such as radish greens

1. Set a steamer basket inside a pot of water and bring to a boil. Working in batches, and refilling pot with water as needed, steam vegetables until crisp-tender — 3 to 5 minutes for broccolini; 4 to 5 minutes for asparagus, squash and zucchini; 5 to 6 minutes for carrots; and 15 to 20 minutes for beets.

2. Arrange vegetables on a platter. Season with salt, drizzle with oil, and squeeze with lemon wedge. Garnish with microgreens; serve with more lemon wedges.

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