Green Salad With White Beans, Apple & Walnuts
With my myriad of health challenges, I find myself visiting my doctor quite often. And in each precious half hour I have with her, our conversations always revolve around those challenges. Our chats include replays of how tired I am, how much pain I am experiencing, my latest round of lab work, how difficult it is for me to power through life, and the two dozen things we have tried. None being the magic trick I need to get me back to normal living.
On a recent visit, we discussed a metabolic panel I had done at her insistence. I am going on fifteen solid years of consistently poor energy levels. But a recent bout had both of us concerned. It was important to know what was going on.
Luckily, the results of my panel did not reveal anything too scary. But it did reveal a few nutritional deficiencies that were most likely playing a role in my pronounced fatigue.
I would consider myself a healthy eater. When I’m good, I’m really good. My diet is balanced and alkaline. But more often than not, I am super tired and achy. And that’s when I get reckless. I lack the mental energy to plan nutritious meals. And when my pain is off the charts crazy high, I get down. I just don’t give a flying flip.
My husband is really good and patient when it comes to taking care of me. He puts a lot of thought into preparing delicious and balanced meals for us. I am very lucky in that way. But life happens. He can be gone for work, long stretches at a time, leaving me to my own devices. And the furry babies need attention, and things around the house just can’t wait. I don’t have anything left to take even five minutes and cook something healthy for myself. It is easier to grab a handful of chips or crackers, or a few fudgecicles out of the freezer and call it dinner. And it is easiest to just not eat at all, which has been my habit lately.
In the past few weeks we have been on top of it. We make extra meals like chili and other stuff that freezes well. This helps me when I’m not feeling well and Hubby isn’t home. It doesn’t take much effort to heat up dinner. Also, I have been sure to have lots of fresh fruit, veggies, Greek yogurt and whole grain foods at the ready, much better than greasy chips or salty crackers. I can just grab my fruit or pre cut veggies out of the fridge when I want them. I have also remembered to take my vitamins. But it can take weeks, even months, of good and consistent habits to turn the nutritional tables to where they need to be.
At my appointment my doctor pointed to her computer screen with her funky cool, manicured nails, displaying my recent test results. The jumble of codes, letters and numbers glaring back at us revealed a deficiency in Vitamin D and potassium. Both are critical in maintaining normal energy levels, among a dozen other important functions both accomplish. I now had a task. To turn these levels around and see if I had any improvement at all in the waning pep in my step. I could not afford to be more tired. Life is passing me by as it is.
Clearly, my half-assed diet of late was doing its number on me. While Vitamin D deficiency can be common, particularly in the winter months, a potassium deficiency is highly unusual. Most Americans, with our standard diet, have little difficulty in consuming the 2000 milligrams needed daily. But here I was, with my test result. Time to do something about it.
So what exactly does potassium do for us? For starters, it is crucial in maintaining healthy blood pressure, muscle health, electrolyte and water balance, and helps tremendously in keeping depression and fatigue at bay.
My doctor went through her files and handed me a list of high potassium foods. I was surprised to see what was on it. Probably for most of us, if we are asked to think of a high potassium food, a banana is the first thing that comes to mind. There are actually many foods that have double the potassium punch of bananas. A generous glass of orange juice can give you double the milligrams. I looked again at the list. On top? White beans.
White beans bring 560 milligrams of potassium per one half cup serving, over a fourth of the daily milligrams you need to be healthy. That’s impressive. Another specific type of white bean, cannellini beans, can give you over 600 milligrams in a one half cup serving. Regardless of the type of white bean, they are loaded with healthy fiber, protein, and are low in fat. Sounds great to me. There has got to be an easy and tasty way to incorporate them into my diet.
We are now nearing the end of winter, and I notice my cravings are shifting. I am burned out on soups and chili. What can I do otherwise with these beans exactly?
The other day I happened to flip through a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, perusing the paint colors and accent pieces and garden tips that typically catch my eye. I don’t usually have a big interest in the recipes I see in there (unless it is for something sinful like buttery Christmas cookies or a chocolate something or other). But there it was, a white bean salad recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger, the registered dietician, television personality and cookbook author.
I studied the ingredients. It looked simple enough. I had everything I needed on hand, with the exception of a can of white beans. Nothing a quick trip to the store couldn’t fix. On this day, an 80 degree February afternoon here in Northern California, a delicious healthy green salad sounded excellent.
I made some changes to Ms. Krieger’s recipe, adding a few things and using different measurements. So here it is:
GREEN SALAD WITH WHITE BEANS, APPLES AND WALNUTS
3/4 cup walnut pieces (toasted)
1/2 of a 15 ounce can white beans (drained and rinsed in my colander)
Approximately 10 ounces of mixed salad greens (I chose a blend of red and green romaine, chard, raddichio, arugula and spinach. 10 ounces is the same amount you would find in a prepackaged bag of salad greens in your local grocery store)
6 medium sized stalks of celery (sliced)
1/2 medium sized Granny Smith apple (diced in good sized pieces)
For the dressing:
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Jack Daniel’s mustard (I did not have Dijon on hand, probably any kind of spicy mustard will do just fine)
1 small clove garlic (minced)
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Like most salads, pretty easy
I began by toasting my walnuts in a dry pan for several minutes over medium-high heat. I stirred frequently until they smelled nice and toasty and turned a nice dark brown. Putting them to the side, I then combined all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisked together.
Moving on to the beans, I took half a can’s worth (saving the rest), placed them in their own separate bowl and tossed well with 1 teaspoon of my dressing mixture.
In a large bowl, I combined my salad greens, celery, diced apple, beans, and walnuts, and tossed well with what remained of the dressing.
This salad was a delicious and filling lunch with the walnuts and beans, and just enough for both my husband and myself to enjoy. The beans have a mild flavor. The apples made it perfect, with their crisp tartness and crunch, a perfect complement to the walnuts.
It would also make an excellent side dish for dinner. While the beans are giving me my needed potassium, along with a generous amount of fiber and protein, the walnuts give me the Omega 3’s I need for heart health, along with magnesium, protein and fiber, too.
This salad would be extra yummy with bleu cheese crumbled over it. I will definitely try that next time. And my husband seems happy about being relieved of kitchen duty.
And another cool thing about this? My salad is highly alkaline. Healthy, dark and hearty greens, legumes, green apple and walnuts. Ready to kick my fatigue right in its ornery backside and get me back on the healthy high road. I certainly hope so.
While my Vitamin D deficiency is another matter, I feel good knowing I found a delicious and easy way to get my potassium level where it needs to be. I am feeling stronger and more energetic already.
For Ms. Krieger’s version of the salad, as well as other wonderful recipes, visit: http://www.bhg.com/recipes/from-better-homes-and-gardens/january-2012-recipes/#page=5