Guys, listen. I care about my patients a lot and all of them have a very special place in my heart. There was one of my patients during naturopathic medical school who made his way particularly deep into my heart though. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was coming to our student clinic at Southwest College for care to supplement his conventional cancer treatment.
Really, he was only coming to our clinic for constitutional hydrotherapy (I'll write about that in another blog soon). As an eager 3rd or 4th year naturopathic medical student who was full of information but very little experience, there were so many other interventions that I wanted to try with this sweet man! Finally one day, my powerful yet kind attending physician, Dr. Sara Hazel, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, "OK, write him up a plan." Oh my, what a plan I did write for him! 9 pages worth of recommendations.
Now, with a little more experience and focused interventions, I realize that might have been a little much. 9 pages of lifestyle changes might have been slightly overwhelming. It is hard to know now how many of these interventions he tried, but there is one that I know he did try and that was a recently popularized grain-substitute called quinoa (remember this was 10 years ago).
No matter how much pain he was in or emotions he was feeling as he confronted the cancer, he would still come to see us once a week for treatment. Some mornings looked far more difficult than others. Still, each of these mornings, he would walk in and his face would brighten as he saw me. His eyes would sparkle and a mischievous smirk would come over his face. And, every week he would humorously offer me a new pronunciation of the word quinoa. Queen-o-a. Keen-ya. Kwin-ah! Kin-on-ia. I could never quite tell if he liked eating this new food, but he sure did have fun while he was trying it. And his visit was always a highlight of my week. The memory of his smile still fills my heart with love.
Hope this recipe will allow you to have some fun trying quinoa also! There are plenty of reasons to include it in your diet: complete protein, iron, magnesium, fiber, and riboflavin. Some evidence suggests quinoa may aide in decreasing weight and improving cholesterol. It is also gluten-free. I mean, shoot, 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa. This page from the Whole Grains Council also has some interesting research articles on quinoa.
Couple all of this from the quinoa with the other nutrient-dense foods in this recipe and you get a meal that is full of color, fiber, and other benefits:
Balanced plant-based protein, carbs, and fats
High levels of potassium, magnesium
Extra Vitamin C, other anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties
Beneficial bacteria (probiotics)
Plus, it is cheap and super easy. You can easily make quinoa and lentils in advance for a few easy meals. The sprouted lentils that I used are from Truroots and are available at many healthfood stores, as well as online at stores like Thrive. Really, you can use whatever toppings from your local Farmers' Market sound most delicious to you. Try different combinations, you really can't go wrong with this power bowl! Now, if I could just talk someone into opening a "fast food" restaurant with this option in Carlsbad Village...
There are some things to be careful of, particularly some environmental concerns with over-consumption of this nutrient-dense little nongrain. Also, make sure to wash the quinoa well before cooking it. Substances called saponins often accumulate on quinoa; many associate these saponins with increased gas, bloating, and digestive distress when eating quinoa. Saponins generally create a "sudsing"effect. (The process of making soap is called saponification.) As with any dietary changes, best to check with your licensed medical care team before beginning.