Maintaining Nutrition Goals Through Thanksgiving (and Syrian Green Beans)

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN

The holidays bring up a lot of emotions. The family, the food, the festivities. All of these things can be sources of great joy, but they can also be sources of stress and temptation. Following the nutrition program of the Bredesen Protocol is unbelievably challenging on a normal day. But on a day like Thanksgiving, it can seem nearly impossible to maintain. For this reason, many of our clients at the Amos Institute are apprehensive about navigating the holidays. It’s tough to avoid foods that sabotage your brain health when you are surrounded by them. At the same time, it can be uncomfortable explaining your nutrition program to relatives and friends, and in some cases trying to talk about nutrition and health can elicit a barrage of unsolicited advice. But with just a few substitutions and swaps, Thanksgiving dinner can be filled with all of the dishes you’ve always loved and still support your brain health.

My advice to surviving and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, or any holiday for that matter, is to fill the buffet with lots of dishes that you can eat. You can accommodate everyone’s food preferences by having different versions or variations of dishes on the table. Best news of all? It means even more leftovers! At our house we eat cauliflower mashed potatoes, homemade gluten free biscuits, roasted vegetables, curried carrots, harvest salad, cranberry sauce, pasture raised organic turkey, and more! We even finish it off with a gluten free, vegan pumpkin pie. But if someone is coming to dinner who prefers the traditional mashed potatoes and stuffing, we serve that too. Everyone’s nutrition needs are different, so just make sure that you have choices that support your health and satisfy your taste buds.

This is our family’s recipe for green beans and it hails from Aleppo, Syria. Traditional Green Bean Casserole is often full of processed foods: packaged fried onions, canned cream of mushroom soup, etc. All of that dairy, sodium, and saturated fat (along with all of the preservatives and toxicants in the packaged food components) wreak havoc on the brain. We keep the green beans (the nutritious part of the dish), throw out the other garbage, and add in tomatoes, garlic, and tons of nutrient rich spices.

Not only is this dish bursting with flavor, but it has incredible health benefits. The garlic and cumin provide the immune system with a much needed boost at this time of year (1). The olive oil helps lower blood lipid levels, decreasing the risk of hyperlipidemia (2). The coriander is anti-mold, which is fantastic for individuals with mold illness, suffering from Type 3 Alzheimer’s Disease, or who are susceptible to mold disease (3). And to be honest, these health benefits just skim the surface. Foods have a synergistic effect. When we eat whole plant foods like green beans, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil and pair them with spices and herbs, they work together to bring out and increase absorption of their health promoting compounds.

So whether you’re revamping the traditional foods this Thanksgiving or swapping in some more nutritious alternatives, we at the Amos Institute wish you a healthy holiday full of gratitude and love.

Syrian Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound tomatoes
  • ½  tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoon coriander
  • ½ tablespoon Aleppo pepper

Directions:

  1. Trim and cut the fresh green beans into one inch pieces.
  2. Place into a large skillet.
  3. Slice the garlic cloves and add them to the skillet.
  4. Add the salt and olive oil into the skillet and stir fry over medium heat.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and add them to a small saucepan.
  6. Cover them with water and bring to a boil.
  7. Once boiling, reduce the heat and bring to a simmer.
  8. Once the green beans have changed color to a darker green, add the spices.
  9. Continue to stir the green beans for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Add the tomato mixture to the green beans, cover, and decrease the temperature to medium low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the cover and continue to cook, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate.
  12. Serve warm.  

References:

  1. Mnif, S. & Aifa, S. (2015). Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) from Traditional Uses to Potential Biomedical Applications. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 12: 733-739.
  2. Khan, T.M., Iqbail, S., & Rashid, M.A. (2017). Comparison if lipid lowering effect of extra virgin olive oil and atorvastatin in dyslipidemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad, 29(1): 83-86.
  3. Prachayasittikul, V., Prachayasittikul, S., Ruchirawat, S., & Prachayasittikul, V. (2018). Coriander (Coriandrum sativum): A promising functional food toward the well-being. Food Research International, 105: 305-323.