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Grated Carrot Salad and Real Food

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

This is pretty much as simple as it gets. Yet it's delicious, a hit with kids and adults alike, and nutritious. This is real food at it's best. You might think "What do you mean, 'real food'? Aren't we all eating food all the time?"

But that's the thing with today's eating habits - what we put in our mouth is not always real food, even though it's marketed to us as such. I love Michael Pollan's term 'edible food-like substances'. This describes the majority of products on sale in most Western supermarkets. They are highly processed, with many additives and ingredients that even I sometimes can't pronounce. These are the foods that are contributing to our current problem of chronic disease. Our body was not designed to be able to live off of artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, emulsifiers and highly processed grains, oils and sugars. These pave the slow and painful road to diabetes, heart disease, cancers and many other non-communicable diseases.

We know that eating a real food diet is the way to health. It's been shown through research (Annual Review of Public Health Volume 35, 2014 Katz, pp 83-103) and it makes sense, too. Eating whole, minimally processed, seasonal and organic produce helps to prevent chronic disease. But what is real food? If it's not what's in the supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, then where do we find it? And how do we know that it's real?

This is where it's handy to have a few real food rules. Michael Pollan has a book by that very name and there are several other who have contributed ideas since. Basically, real food is minimally processed, as close to nature as possible. It contains no ingredients you can't pronounce and no artificial anything. If it's packaged, it has five ingredients or less. It's usually not made in a factory. It goes off. You can see how these rules rule out most products you could find in the supermarket. It leaves us with the ingredients that we need to cook - not pre-prepared convenience meals or cereal or most snacks. It leaves us with fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, some meats and poultry, eggs, dairy and fish. This is the palette that we use to create our master pieces. Interestingly, you can eat Paleo, be vegan, subscribe to the Mediterranean diet, follow Low Carb, Low Fat or Low GI and have equally good health outcomes. This is because all of these diets, if followed properly, don't include any processed foods. That is the key to a healthful life.

Does it take longer to make? Does it create more dirty dishes? Do you need to be more prepared? Do you need to shop and cook more frequently? Yes. Don'd kid yourself, there are no shortcuts here. Is it worth it? YES! Absolutely, no doubt about it, eating real food will make a world of difference to your health. It's easy to be hard on yourself or get overwhelmed. Make small changes. Swap the refined oils for less processed ones. Stop buying cereal for breakfast. Make time to meal plan and meal prep during your week. One thing at a time. You will see how it feels better and will be easier to take on more steps towards a real food diet.

One way the we work towards real food-ing in our house is to make all dips and little side salads at home. That way we avoid eating preservatives (found in virtually all supermarket dips), highly processed oils and too much salt. Before every Shabbat I prepare some dips (some weeks it's only two, other weeks it's five or more - depending on whether we have guests and how much energy I've got). I make pesto, eggplant dip, techina, olive dip, sundried tomato dip and more. One other little side salad I have been making over the last year or two is a grated carrot dish.

A quick note about the ingredients in this salad and their health benefits. Carrots are high in fibre (helps to keep our good gut bacteria happy, keep us full, regulate blood sugar and prevent constipation), beta carotene (precursor of vitamin A, which is important for eye sight, immune function and growth), vitamin K1 (blood clotting and bone health), potassium (blood pressure control) and antioxidants. Coriander is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as B vitamins. Garlic is a well known nutrition powerhouse in many cultures. It is anti-inflammatory, helps the immune system, reduces blood pressure and LDL-Cholesterol, may help with reducing risk of dementia and plays a role in bone health. Sounds pretty impressive for a simple side dish. But that's what we expect from real food - real contributions to our health.

I would say the best thing about it is that it's so easy to make and the kids love it! It's something small, but it's a stitch in the tapestry of the real food diet. I hope you and your family enjoy it and that it also becomes a part of your real food journey.



5 medium carrots, peeled

Large handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly chopped

A couple of cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

A couple of tables spoons of vinegar

A couple of tablespoons of light olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1) Grate the carrots. If you have a food processor it's best to use it for this. That way the carrot pieces are nice and firm when they are grated and they will keep well and not get too soggy. If you've only got a grater you can use that too.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients to the grated carrot and mix well. It will seem like there is not enough liquid, but the carrots will release some juice as they marinate in the dressing.

3) Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


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