For all my nightshade-free foodies, thank goodness we have beets. They impart the savory umami flavor of tomatoes without the inflammatory lectins and saponins that disrupt intestinal tight junctions---leading to pathologic paracellular intestinal permeability, the precursor to all autoimmune disease (Fasano, 2012).
What's more, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, a luminary at the Institute for Functional Medicine, calls beets a "methylation superfood," along with organ meats, shellfish, eggs, mushrooms, and spinach. Methylation, a fundamental epigenetic process whereby carbon groups are attached to DNA to either silence it or promote its expression, is quintessential to cellular processes including detoxification, metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis, mitochondrial energy production, central nervous system function, cell cycle regulation, cellular integrity, and immune homeostasis---and derangements in methylation have been implicated in many diseases (Robertson, 2005).
Beets are rich in betaine---an important cofactor for the metabolism of homocysteine, a risk biomarker and significant predictor for cardiovascular disease, that is often elevated in inflammatory autoimmune states and in those of us with MTHFR mutations (Grundy et al., 2006). Betaine is also essential for formation of the all-important methyl donor, SAMe.
Not only that, but a study recently conducted by the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrated that only two-thirds of a cup of concentrated beet juice almost instantaneously enhanced muscle capacity in congestive heart failure subjects by an average of 13 percent (Coggan et al., 2015). Andrew Coggan, who co-authored the study, noted that this is the kind of improvement that would be witnessed after a few hard months of resistance training.
This effect was attributed to its nitric oxide content, a gaseous signaling molecule that modulates regulation of blood flow, immune function, neurotransmission, muscle contractility, glucose and calcium homeostasis, and mitochondrial respiration---the production of cellular energy currency, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (Wylie et al., 2013).
Beet root juice and other high nitric oxide vegetables have been found to significantly reduce resting blood pressure, thus having therapeutic potential in hypertension, metabolic syndrome, peripheral artery disease, and coronary heart disease (Larsen et al., 2006). Wylie and colleagues (2013) go so far as to say that the consumption of nitric oxide-rich foodstuffs like beets "may be an effective strategy for maintaining and perhaps enhancing vascular health in young adults," as well as "for improving cardiovascular health in the general population and for enhancing exercise performance in athletes" (Wylie et al., 2013).
But what about the sugar content?! Although some holistic health practitioners recommend avoidance of starchy carbohydrates such as beets, carrots, squashes and sweet potato when it comes to intestinal Candidiasis, colloquially known as Candida overgrowth, I take a different approach. Although I advocate eliminating grains and limiting starchy tubers and low sugar fruits to two or three servings per day on an anti-Candida regimen, I do not endorse a very low carbohydrate approach in this instance.
As eukaryotes, Candida species have mitochondria that can oxidize both glucose and ketone bodies. Research has illuminated that fungal Candida species such as Candida maltosa, Candida tropicalis, Candida catenulata, and Candida albicans are capable of degrading aliphatic ketones (Beir, Hahn, Bornscheuer, & Schauer, 2014).
Thus, as originally highlighted by Paul Jaminet of the Perfect Health Diet, a ketogenic diet will only fuel Candida overgrowth. Moreover, as articulated by Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple, because of their water solubility, ketones will easily pass through cellular membranes and act as a more accessible fuel source for Candida.
So, don't feel guilty about eating this twist on the traditional popular Italian-American dish: Paleo Chicken Parmesean with almond-flour breaded chicken breast, tomato-free, beet-rich nomato sauce, and almond ricotta cheese.
Beir, A., Hahn, V., Bornscheuer, U.T., & Schauer, F. (2014). Metabolism of alkenes and ketones by Candida maltosa and related yeasts. AMB express, 4(75).
Coggan, A.R., Leibowitz, J.L., Spearie, C.A., Kadkhodayan, A., Thomas, D.P., Ramamurthy, S.,...Peterson, L.R. (2015). Acute dietary nitrate intake improves muscle contractile function in patients with heart failure: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Circulation.
Fasano, A. (2012). Leaky gut and autoimmune disease. Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, 42(1), 71-78.
Grundy, S.M., Cleeman, J.I., Daniels, S.R., Donato, K.A., Eckel, R.H., Franklin, B.A.,…Costa, F. (2006). Diagnosis and management of the metabolic syndrome: An American Heart Association/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Scientific Statement. Circulation, 112, 2735-2752.
Larsen, F.J., Ekblom, B., Sahlin, K., Lundberg, J.O, & Weitzberg, E. (2006). Effects of dietary nitrate on blood pressure in healthy volunteers. New England Journal of Medicine, 355, 2792–2793.
Wylie, L.J., Kelly, J., Bailey, S.J., Blackwell, J.R.,Skiba, P.F., Winyard, P.G.,...Jones, A.M. (2013). Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships. Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(2), 325-336.
Robertson, K.D. (2005). DNA methylation and human disease. National Reviews in Genetics, 6(8), 597-610.
3 celery stalks, diced
3 large carrots, diced
1 large beet, cooked and diced (or use 3/4 can of beets)
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3/4 cup bone broth or chicken stock
1 teaspoon of garlic powder or 3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
1) Saute chopped celery and carrots in olive oil over medium heat for several minutes.
2) Add chopped, cooked beets along with bone broth along with all the Italian herbs and spices.
3) Simmer on low, uncovered for twenty minutes.
4) Puree in a food processor.
5) Add sea salt to taste.
1-2 lbs of organic boneless, skinless, chicken breast
1/3-2/3 cups almond flour depending on volume of chicken used
2-3 eggs depending on volume of chicken used
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/8th teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk
2-3 cups Nomato sauce (AIP) or store-bought tomato sauce (paleo)
2 medium zucchini (1 per person)
Kite Hill ricotta almond cheese
extra virgin coconut oil
1. Wash and spiralize two zucchini.
2. Butterfly chicken breasts and pound with the flat side of a spoon or meat hammer until 1/2 inch thick.
3. Beat eggs with almond milk in a medium sized bowl.
4. Combine almond flour and spices on a large dish or plate and mix thoroughly.
5. Add 3 tbsp. of coconut oil to a large skillet and turn on medium high heat.
6. Dip the chicken in the eggs and then into the flour mixture until coating is evenly distributed.
7. Place chicken breasts into the hot oil and brown on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side depending on size of chicken breasts.
8. After chicken breasts are cooked, spoon Nomato sauce and a dollop of ricotta almond cheese onto each chicken breast, and broil on high in oven for 2 minutes.
9. Saute zucchini noodles in coconut oil over medium heat for a few minutes until cooked.