Hope you enjoyed a long, leisurely Labor Day weekend. But now that it’s over, it can only mean one thing: time to stow away all your white clothes until the Spring.
Now I’m not entirely sure where the Don’t wear white after Labour day rule originated or whether it’s still considered a fashion faux pas. The one thing I do know, is that when it comes to food and good nutrition, you mustn’t underestimate your whites and in fact, I want to encourage you to dress your plate with them, regularly.
Let me be clear: a distinction must be made between foods that are naturally white and those that have become white as a result of processing or refining.
Take white flour or white rice for example: these foods are only white because they’ve been stripped of their outer layer. These refined grains have had the germ and the bran removed, rendering them white and significantly less nutritious. Sugar, of course, is another white no no.
So which white foods should you be filling-up on? As with all foods, the most healthful whites come in whole form. Why white? Because most often, we’re told to enjoy an abundance of brightly-coloured vegetables and fruit, and you should, since colourful foods are a sign of phytonutrients, compounds exclusive to plants that provide us with health benefits. But I want to remind you that white is a colour, too, and shouldn’t be neglected.
White foods to eat and why
- Allicin is your ally: The sulfur compound, responsible for garlic’s pungency, is known for its antibacterial properties and other health-protective properties. Fun fact: Allicin is only formed when garlic is crushed (which is why garlic is odor-free when intact). This property is thought to serve as garlic’s defence mechanism: if aggressors were to make a move and destroy the cell walls, allicin would be produced and attack the invader.
- Heart-healthy: Research has shown a favourable correlation between garlic consumption and heart disease risk. Here, it’s allicin and other sulfur compounds, that are thought to be responsible through antioxidant activity, keeping arteries flexible and healthy.
- Tip: Let chopped garlic rest at room temperature before cooking: this increases the amount of health-promoting compounds.
How to enjoy
- In your cooking: garlic is essential for creating an aromatic base for your meals
- Roasted: Creamy, rich, sweet and spreadable. Nuff said. Click here to learn how.
- Nutrient-dense: Rarely the first food that comes to mind when it comes to nutrient density but rest assured: mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses. Just 100g of mushrooms (about 4 medium mushrooms) provide a noteworthy source of B complex vitamins, potassium, selenium and fibre.
- Ergothioneine: This very powerful anti-cancer antioxidant gets into our cells to protect our DNA.
- Vitamin D: Mushrooms contain ergosterol (a plant sterol) that is converted to vitamin D2 when exposed to sunlight or artificial lights, making them the only natural plant source of vitamin D. Of course, levels can vary quite a bit since mushrooms aren’t typically grown in the sun. So although they can provide you with a vitamin D boost, don’t count on them to reach your daily requirements.
How to enjoy
- Grilled: Toss mushrooms in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Montreal steak spice, then grill. Delicious.
- Whole caps: I love using mushroom caps as a base for a poached egg, as a faux benedict. It’s an easy way to boost veggies at breakfast and besides, mushrooms and eggs are a dreamy combo.
- Go ahead, wash your mushrooms: I’ve been rinsing button mushrooms (not delicate wild mushrooms though) under water ever since Alton Brown smashed that myth in season 8 of Good Eats.
- Quercetin: this highly-studied flavonoid also found in apples, tea and citrus fruits, provides antioxidant activity that helps to neutralize free radical damage in the body. It also possesses antiflammatory properties and offers protection against heart disease, stroke and cancers.
- Sulfur-rich: Sulfur compounds, responsible for the oniony smell, are produced when onions are cut along with lachrymatory factor (the compound that makes you cry). They’re believed to protect against several human cancers.
How to enjoy:
- Sautéed: Add flavour to your food by using sautéed onions as a base.
- Caramelized: Sweet and almost jam-like, caramelized onions make the perfect condiment.
- Cancer crusher: Sulforaphane, a compound formed from glucosinolates present in cauliflower, helps the liver create enzymes that stop cancer from damaging our cells, interefering with cancer progression. Population-based research indicates that consumption of cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables may decrease cancer risk.
How to enjoy:
- Raw: Place in a food processor, pulse to a meal and use as an alternative to rice or couscous in salads
- Roasted: My favourite way of enjoying cauliflower. Olive oil, salt, pepper and a hot oven is all it takes to take this vegetable from good to great.
How do you feel about wearing white after Labour Day? Which of these white whole foods are a part of your diet?