My favourite part about cooking with real ingredients is that they do so much more than just taste great. Whole foods have the ability to nourish, support and heal our bodies — the way nature intended them to. You’d be surprised at how many kitchen staples double as flu fighters, cancer preventers and anti-aging warriors while adding flavour to our dishes. In my nutrition practice, I get tons of inquiries about supplements that boost the immune system, improve digestion and increase metabolism, and while supplements can be useful in some cases, I always suggest we look to our pantries first.
When I first made this creamy and completely vegan dressing, I wasn’t thinking of its medicinal properties — just that it tasted great and allowed me to use the last of the avocado sitting on my counter. After taking a closer look at the ingredients, it became clear this recipe has more to offer than just spicing up greens. You can use it as a salad dressing, a dip for veggies or pour it over grains, meats, grilled veggies and fish. Read on for what makes it so healing:
Garlic: Sliced or chopped, garlic releases allicin, the sulphur compound responsible for its powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties that protect us from infections. Allicin can help balance an overgrowth of candida (a type of yeast) that can interfere with proper digestion and absorption of nutrients plus a variety of other symptoms if left untreated. Consuming raw garlic causes thermogenesis (a rise in our body temperature) and therefore increases our metabolism, helping us burn more calories.
Ginger: Used traditionally in Ayurvedic healing, ginger is a well-known digestive aid and anti-nausea remedy. It fights inflammation (now thought to be the root of many common degenerative diseases), is anti-bacterial and detoxifying, making it a key player in preventative heath. Like garlic, ginger increases our metabolism due to the rise in body temperature experienced after its consumption.
Cayenne: The active compound in cayenne, capsaicin is responsible for much of its benefits and weight-loss properties. Capsaicin not only increases metabolism by raising body temperature, but has also been shown to promote the breakdown of fat and to reduce fat synthesis (and therefore the accumulation of fat). Cayenne pepper is high in vitamin A, which fights infection. Plus, its spicy nature helps to loosen mucous and phlegm build-up during a cold or flu.
Apple cider vinegar is often recommended for indigestion, bloating and gas as it stimulates digestive juices and supplies the body with active enzymes to help break down our food. It’s antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal and therefore supportive to the immune system and fighting pathogens. Apple cider also alkalizes the body, which is important because disease thrives in an acidic environment. Finally, apple cider vinegar can aid in weight loss by suppressing our appetite, as well as increasing our metabolic rate.
1/2 an avocado
2 cloves garlic
1/4-inch piece of ginger
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 pinches of sea salt
1/8 tsp of cayenne powder (or more depending on your tolerance for heat)
1 tsp raw honey (optional)
Put all ingredients in a mini food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth.
Tara Miller is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist. Her educational background is from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition combined with a degree in psychology from the University of Guelph. This combination allows Tara to address the challenges individuals face when it comes to everyday healthy living. Tara is also the owner of the Health Hut Boutique in Muskoka where she offers effective and toxic-free beauty, household and specialty food items. You can follow her blog for holistic recipes and tips at taramillernutrition.com.