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Nutrition: Why is it that intestinal health is so important?

27/03/2015 - 7 Comments - Nutrition |

This text and image are by Laura Leite.

A few months ago, I first started to know Laura, even without knowing her - through comments made by Jo about her researches and studies. Jo and I often discuss via email, thinking about what the best topics would be to address and elucidate here in the Nutrition column.
And through the concepts she presented to me, we arrived at the conclusion that, in order to understand the influence of nutrition over us, it is essential to know how the digestive system works, with a special attention to the intestines.
I got curious to learn about Laura's line of thought, and finally we were introduced when Jo proposed that she could write in this space about the importance of paying attention to intestinal health - both individually, so that we have understanding and autonomy over our own body and health, as well as in the health professionals scope who treat and educate the general public. I pass the floor to Jo now.

About two years ago, Laura has introduced me to the Paleolithic diet and all the science behind this ancestral nutritional template. At every conversation I discovered something new, I found a new way of thinking and acting regarding all things related to the conventional nutritional practice (that one based on the food pyramid, eating every three hours, and that generally prescribed macronutrients ratio, among other characteristics). From there, I began to admire her effort and ability to study the more complex topics of the nutritional science. Whenever I needed support, either with her opinion as in bibliography, there she was with all her coherence. All of my texts were written with Flora's help, who drives the topics through doubts and questions that serve as guide; and also with help from Laura, who would review the text, suggest additional reads and bibliographical reference. The "intestinal health" topic is very important for those curious to know how our bodies work and the influence of food on it. Yet, I feel my studies on this organ are still raw. And the person I know who has a great understanding on the topic is Laura. So today, with great joy, Flora and I open the space for this wonderful person who has so much to contribute with our column. Welcome, Laura!

Thank you Flora and Jo for introducing me :)
My name is Laura Mattos Leite and I am very glad to be invited to write here! I think Flora's site is a delicious read, full of inviting images, ideas and information. It reminds me of my beloved aunt Lola's home in Ribeirão Preto, where I only felt love and comfort all through my childhood, experimenting the delicacies she would prepare with such care.

I have graduated in Social Communication at PUC RJ and I also work as a consultant and mentor in Professional Communication. Since 1997 I started to have a greater interest in nutrition, due to a serious crisis of mysterious allergies I had while studying yoga living in India. I completely healed by eliminating gluten, and I never looked back.

Since then, I have been certified as Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor, and have received trainings from very generous and wonderful teachers in several forms of movement.
In 2009, I had contact with the "anti-inflammatory" diet, which radically reduces the sources of Omega 6 from the meals. Since, I have been working and participating in symposiums on this topic, including what is now in vogue called - although not scientifically - the "Paleolithic Diet". I have always avoided labeling diets, since I feel it is associated with formulas. I don't believe in formulas, but in doing what is best for each person individually, within their life context. I am at the end of the Funcional Diagnostic Nutrition course, accomplishing the desire to better understand hormones and thus being able to better help people. I believe food is a powerful medicine, and I see cooking as an Art, Therapy and Fun. I love to cook, feel free to drop by my instagram, I will love your visit!
I confess Jo is responsible for a great part of my culinary adventures, for she inspires me infinitely and, after I met her, cooking became so much more fun and tasty. Thank you Jo!

So, let's talk about this organ which I oftentimes call "our root": the intestine.


All images and text in this post are by Gabriel Marzinotto.

Something funny is that this post has been planned since Flora first invited me to write this column. When I said I didn't mean to write exclusively about food stalls on the streets, I was thinking about Aska ramen, and I know she's always agreed it's valid.
It just took me a while, really, because it lies in the limit of the self-imposed limits of this space. After all, you eat it in a restaurant, there is a line at the door - which remains closed, by the way. Seems like it doesn't fit in the concept of the column. But for those who know Aska, I think my choice makes some sense.

Because ramen is not a street food per se, but it is a quick, over-the-counter meal - or sharing a table with strangers - that goes straight to point and fills the stomach. That's why it's here. And because Aska is a place that works in the strict norms of fast food: if you stroll around, they rush you until you get out.

Prepare yourself if you want to go there: the place is small and there are few tables for 4, waiting for one of those to be free might mean staying by the door for one hour. The real deal is to drop by yourself or with one more person, and sit by the counter. Like this, you can assure an ultra-fast service and face the kitchen - going deeper into the spirit of the place; after all, the lady who owns the place remains by the end of the counter staring fiercely at people who prove to be taking their time too much.

I know some people who dislike going there because of this, and I get them. Perfectly. But I also understand the restaurant, where they charge a very cheap price for a great plate of typical food, so they need to have an intense SPIN of customers in order to profit. A bowl of ramen costs around R$14,00 and R$16,00, with the possibility of having the larger bowl for 1 more real (or the smaller version with 1 real discount). Extra ingredients also mean fewer extra bucks, and usually are very much worth it.

I went there with Catharina, and both of us had Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen. I believe Aska Ramen if the best in São Paulo due to a conjunction of factors, the main of which is flavor. Tokontsu broth is usually quite salty, but at Aska it is milder than at other places, and it doesn't take over the meal flavors that much, one can catch the different taste of each element. It comes with a nice amount of noodles, which is thin and tasty. The portions of other elements (meat, egg, seaweed, kamaboko) could be a little larger, but it's so cheap to ask for extra, I think it's fair.

By the way, another central factor for considering Aska the best is the price. And yes, it does matter a lot in this case, because ramen is a quick and cheap meal by definition. An everyday kind of food. And paying more than R$30,00 in a meal ends up turning that definition into something else. At Aska, it's really hard to spend more than R$25,00 per person, even with a portion of gioza on the side (and trust me, they are excellent).

So, the fun in going to Aska is eating, but the whole traditional mood, the low price and the already folkloric lack of patience with strolling around, make it even more special. If you're in the mood and don't mind the rigid rules, you might end up having a great fun with these peculiarities.

Just one last warning: arriving late for lunch of dinner means a guarantee of waiting to eat. For lunch, it's best to arrive earlier than noon; for dinner, being there around 6pm you have good chances of getting a seat. Weekends are way busier. It all raises exponentially if you are trying to go in group and wait for a whole table to be vacant. And of course: payment can be only made in cash.

Aska Restaurante
Address: Rua Galvão Bueno, 466 - Liberdade, São Paulo

 
Making ramen at home

This might be the most simple of recipes I've prepared for this blog, and yet the one I enjoyed the most.
Not because it was easy (it wasn't too easy, you know) but because I had never prepared my own noodles before. And this is something worth mentioning too: my recipe is centered around preparing the noodles because, except for that, it's all about assembly and throwing in the ingredients. Preparing the broth relies in personal preference, and there are a thousand of different recipes out there. I will describe what we've done (Catharina and me) but I think the cool part was to prepare the noodles, really.

So, the noodles first. There you have the ingredients for 1 portion. If you want to, just double it:

- 1 cup all purpose flour;
- 1 egg;
- 1 teaspoon salt;
- A little water (1 tablespoon).

As I said, it's very simples. Mix the flour and salt first, then the egg and water and beat with a fork to make it even. It's tricky to avoid the lumps, and from some point on it's more productive to leave the fork aside and knead by hand. Then follow the logic: if the dough is too flaky, add a little bit of water, if it's too messy, toss in a little more flour.

The pasta will have a consistency similar to pizza dough, maybe a little bit stickier. Knead well, until it no longer leaves pieces sticking to your hands - but still somewhat sticky, just enough for it to take a while before falling from our hand when you drop it.

Allow for the dough to rest wrapped in a clean damp kitchen towel for about 1 hour.

Then it's time to stretch it out. The thing is to roll it out really (really) thin, and long. After all, this is not pizza, and we want long strings of pasta. First, dust the countertop with a generous amount of flour to avoid sticking. Same goes to your hands and rolling pin. From time to time, sprinkle a little more flour, to balance the natural humidity that arises.
When the pasta reaches the desired thickness, more or less 1mm, sprinkle liberally with more flour on both sides and fold in 3. At this stage it's important to flour really well, because once it's folded it's easier to have a tangled mess.

It's time to cut. Use a long, sharp blade knife. Try to cut as thin as you can, but it will be tough. Mine ended up almost like a tagliarini. And that's fine. It takes some elbow grease, and if you intend to make more than one portion I might become a pain in the ass. I found it to be fun. From time to time, dust flour around so that the cut pasta won't stick. Once you're done, unfold the strings. Sometimes it will be quite tough, and it's not uncommon that some of those remain folded.

Boil a pan of water and pour in the noodles. Not all at once, pick the strings separately and put in the water. If you just toss the whole thing in the water they cook like a bizarre tangled mess. I left mine in water for 10 minutes, but that's because they were kind of thick. If you can cut thin strips, time shouldn't be longer than 5 minutes.

Take the noodles from the water, but don't throw it away! It's time to make the broth. Here are the ingredients we used:
- misso paste;
- shoyu;
- salt;
- chicken stock;
-seaweed leaf;
- boiled egg;
- kamaboko slices;
- vegetarian oyster sauce;
- chives.

Here is where we got creative. We prepared the broth and seasoned to our taste. Of course this is not a traditional shoyu ramen, but it's our version.
We threw in the chicken stock then added misso and shoyu, little by little. If you feel like there is the need, add a little salt. We also put in some vegetarian oyster sauce... because we like it. The sauce adds a unique taste, you can buy it in the grocery stores of Liberdade. Then, just assemble the remaining ingredients in a bowl, adjusting the amounts to taste.

That's it for today! I hope you enjoyed it and leave some comments!

 


 

It's been a couple months since I have diminished the consumption of dairy and eggs at home. That's for no specific reason, I just don't feel much like eating those. Besides, they are extremely perishable. It's not something I can buy and leave in the fridge for three hundred years to consume once in a while (I mean, I even could do that with eggs, but anyway). So, in part for these reasons, in part for the challenge of preparing good food without these ingredients - which are in practically every recipe - I kind of stopped buying them.
Funny thing is it takes quite a while for one to think about cooking in fact without dairy or eggs. Mostly we use the same old recipes adapted with substitutes. So I kept experimenting, trying ways to prepare vegetable milk, and today I share what became my basic recipe to make it with nuts.


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