Friday, November 25, 2011

The Best Brussel Sprouts of Your Life

If your Thanksgiving dinners are anything like the ones in my family, there will be more than one. Getting big families all together can be difficult, so Thanksgiving meals can easily turn into round 2 or even round 3. If there is another round in store for you this holiday weekend, please make these brussel sprouts. I think they will be the best you've ever eaten.

Many in the Paleo community shy away from dairy. Animal dairy was not part of the diet of our hunter-gather ancestors so it should be avoided. This recipe includes dairy but I'm sure it would still be excellent using coconut oil and coconut milk in place of the butter and cream if you prefer. I haven't tried this variation, so let me know how it turns out.

The problem with dairy extends beyond simply lactose, but lies in its content of lectins. Lectins refer to a group of proteins found in grains, legumes, and animal products. Lectins actually occur in all plant and animal foods but to a varying degrees. Grains and legumes appear to be highest in lectin content. Lectins cause problems when consumed in abundance because of their ability to damage the gut lining. This takes place because lectins are not broken down in normal digestion. They are large molecules that can stick to other proteins. The body responds to them in defense—causing an immune response and creating antibodies against them.

There is still a lot to learn about lectins and their affect on our digestive systems. We can't avoid lectins completely in the diet, but we can avoid those that we know are problematic. Wheat germ agglutinin, found in grains, is a well studied lectin with major gut damage potential. Soybean agglutinin is another that has been found to damage the small intestinal lining.

I am not completely opposed to including some dairy in the diet, however. Unless there is a clinical lactose intolerance problem, dairy consumption provides a large amount of healthy saturated fats and is low in inflammatory omega-6 fats. When available, opt for grass-fed butter and raw grass-fed milk. These are rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and antioxidants.

Fermented dairy is also a great option to promote healthy gut ecology. As to be expected, a healthy, balanced gut will make sensitivity to dairy less likely. Look for grass-fed keffir or yogurts that are low in added sugar.

For more details on lectins check out Mark's take at:

Brussel Sprouts Braised in Cream

as seen in Molly Stevens' All About Braising

1 lb brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup of heavy cream

juice of half a lemon

4 slices of bacon, chopped

salt and pepper

Cook the bacon then drain on paper towels and set aside. Trim the sprouts by cutting off the bottom stems and removing some of the outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half or large ones into fourths. In a dutch oven or other heavy lidded pot, melt the butter until foamy. Add the sprouts and cook for several minutes until they are a little browned in places. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cream. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover for 20-25 minutes, or until the sprouts are easily pierced with a fork. Add the lemon juice and chopped bacon and stir to combine. Adjust for seasoning and let simmer for another minute or two to allow the sauce to thicken. Bacon can easily be swapped out for walnuts or hazelnuts.

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