By: Lauren M. Koch, RDN
Have you been advised to stay away from “white foods”? Cautioned that they are devoid of any nutrition? Not so fast!
It’s true; Some “white foods” aren’t the healthiest. White bread. White rice. White sugar. And I have noted several times in the past few weeks that it’s the nutrients themselves that give plants their rich rainbow of pigments. So, are plants lacking much pigment also lacking nutrients? In fact, no. Even those less-than colorful plants contain incredibly important nutrients. Let look at a few of those nutrients, and then I will walk you though a day of meals using these lovely plants! Also included below is the recipe for a “White Sausage and Kale Soup” that I made especially for this week!
Why Eat White?
White plants contain some of the same nutrients as their more colorful counterparts, but also several all their own. This color family is rich in organosulfur compounds, as well as flavonoids. Here are a few of the more prominent phytochemicals and nutrients, and the benefits they provide.
Quercetin is in the family of flavonoid compounds and is one of the more well-studied of the trace nutrients. It is a powerful antioxidant, helpful in keeping inflammation of the arteries in check. It also seems to play a role in keeping allergies, and blood pressure under control. In addition, it is also being studied for it’s anti-cancer properties.
Kaempferol is also a flavonoid compound. Studies indicate it may be helpful in reducing cardiovascular risk through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, cholesterol-lowering ability, and antihypertensive qualities.
Organosulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds are what gives plants in this class their pungent smell. Studies have shown a modest reduction in serum lipids, and improvement in blood pressure in hypertensive patients with higher intakes of these compounds. They also appear to demonstrate some anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticancer, and cardioprotective properties in preclinical studies.
Sources of white
You may be surprised by how many white plants you can find when you really look. Parsnips, garlic, mushrooms, and turnips, to name a few. And they each have a distinct profile of micronutrients important to human health.
Organosulfur compounds are found mainly in the Allium family of vegetables. This includes onions, garlic, shallots, chives, turnips, and leeks.
The flavonoids Quercetin and Kaempferol are found in a wide range of plants. Included in the list are quinoa, cranberries, onions, tea, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, apples, chia seeds, beans, leeks, potatoes, and lettuce.
Meal Ideas to Get your White
Planning meals around white plants is much easier than you’d think! Especially since, as my mom always told me, “all good meals start with garlic and onions!”.
For breakfast, I planned a delicious banana and pear smoothie. I used 1/2 a frozen banana, about a quarter of a frozen pear (in pieces), 1/8th of an avocado, 4oz of unsweetened almond milk, a dash of cinnamon, and 2 tbsp of old fashioned oats. After blending it up, I caramelized a few banana slices (and another pinch of oats) to top it off. Ever tried pear in your smoothie? I recommend it!
For lunch, I had one of my favorites: a portobello burger. Unfortunately for me, the rest of my family isn’t big on mushrooms. So I end up making them for myself for lunch a lot! If you’ve never had a portobello, this is what they look like:And this one is actually on the smaller size. They are dense and flavorful, and an excellent meat substitute for those looking to plan more plant-based meals.
I brushed it lightly with garlic grapeseed oil, and grilled until tender. Then I brushed a thin layer of basil pesto on a toasted gluten-free bun, and topped with the portobello cap, a generous slice of roasted red pepper, and delicate baby spinach. The result? A very filling, veggie-packed sandwich with complex flavors and textures. With roughly half your produce needs for a day!
For a snack, I had some raw cauliflower florets with hummus. Enough said there, because, yum.
For supper, I made a comforting hot soup full of lots of white produce. I actually love making soup with whatever I have on hand. If you follow a general rulebook, it’s pretty hard to screw it up! I’m calling this one, “White Sausage and Kale Soup”. Here is a little snapshot of some of the ingredients I used. Garlic & onion, potatoes, parsnips, cannellini beans (white kidney beans), and cauliflower. Plus some chicken sausage, vegetable stock, hard parmesan cheese, and spices.
Here is a quick rundown of how to make it:
- Steam, and then pure about 2 cups of cauliflower florets with a tbsp of garlic grapeseed oil. Set aside for later.
- Cook, and slice 1lb of chicken sausage in 1/2″ pieces, set aside.
- Dice the onions and garlic, and chop the parsnips and potatoes into roughly 1/2″ pieces.
- Sauté the aromatics in a tbsp of garlic grapeseed oil until fragrant.
- Set aside 4oz of a quart of vegetable (or chicken) stock.
- Add the remainder of the quart of stock, the potatoes, parsnips, about 2/3 of a can of rinsed cannellini beans, and a parmesan cheese rind to the garlic and onions. Allow to simmer, uncovered, until parsnips and potatoes are tender.
- Puree the remaining 1/3 of the beans with the reserved stock until smooth.
- Add a good bunch of curly kale, chopped, during the last few minutes of cook time.
- Add the pureed beans, and the pureed steamed cauliflower, 1/4c of shaved parmesan cheese, and the sliced sausage to the pot, and warm through.
- Season with additional salt & pepper to taste.
- ENJOY!!! 🙂
I mean, how comforting does THIS look? And packed with those super important organosulfur and flavonoid compounds. The pureed beans and steamed cauliflower add a rich creaminess, without much fat. Enjoy with a piece of toasted crusty bread, or some whole wheat crackers!
So we’ve come to the end of our color challenge. We covered the red family of plants, the green family, the purple and blue family, the yellow and orange family, and now finally the white family. It’s my hope that through this process, you’ve developed a new appreciation for the impact of plants on human health, and a few new favorites. Because we really can’t live, or live WELL, without including them in our diets. So next time you do your shopping, take an extra minute to pick something new from the produce section. Your long-term health will thank you! For daily foodspo and recipes, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.