Lasagne for optimal bones health (vegan)

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This is a perfect dish to convince your most carnivorous friends that meatless recipes are very tasty and nutritious. Are you ready for lasagne?

The ingredients benefits

Curly kale

Curly kale

Kale

Kale is a powerhouse of nutrients. As most vegetables, it contains plenty of fibres, which have shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

The bile acids secreted in the digestive tract are synthesized from cholesterol. When fibres pass through the intestine, they bind to bile acids and increase their excretion1.

Studies have also shown that the isothiocyanates and flavonoids in kale lower the risk of certain cancers (such as breast, ovary, colon, prostate, and bladder), as they present antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits2,3,4.

Kale is also rich in lutein and xeanthin, two antioxidant carotenoids that look after the health of the eye, and prevent or slow down retinal degeneration5.

Kale is also a good source of calcium, a mineral essential for bone health and structure and for the function of muscles and nerves6. Vitamin K works together with calcium to maintain structural integrity of our bones. It does so by blocking the formation of too many osteoclasts, bone cells that excrete minerals from the bone into the bloodstream to maintain a constant level of such minerals7.

Lentils

Together with kale, they are a great meat substitute. They are not only rich in proteins, but they also contain nutrients such as folate, iron, and fibres.

Brown lentils

Brown lentils

Folate is a B vitamin that plays an important role for the nervous and cardiovascular systems. The availability of this molecule has been directly linked to the production of multiple neurotransmitter, in particular serotonin and dopamine.

 

Neurotransmitters are used by the body to send signals to different organs and cells8. Folate also helps maintaining the levels of homocysteine in check. In excessive amounts, homocysteine increases the risk for cardiovascular disorders9. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to a wide range of neurological disorders too, as we addressed in B Vitamins vs Homocysteine, in our Alzheimer’s prevention guide and in Decrease Neurotoxicity= less toxic thoughts, in our depression prevention guide.

The fibre in lentils not only lowers the levels of cholesterol (as seen for kale), but also maintain blood-sugar levels, avoiding sharp peaks of high or low concentration of sugars in the bloodstream10.

Lentils are also rich in magnesium, an antioxidant that reduces the damage to heart and blood vessels, and therefore it significantly decreases the risks for heart disease11.

Iron, a very important component of haemoglobin in the red blood cells, is a mineral that transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells. Iron is also used by enzyme systems involved in metabolism and energy production. To increase the absorption of this mineral, it is essential to eat or drink vitamin C-rich foods, such as tomatoes, lemon juice, berries, and raw dark leafy greens12.

Pistachios

Pistachios

Pistachios

They are packed with plenty of nutrients, among which we find heart-healthy fatty acids, proteins, dietary fibre, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, and gamma-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E).

Tomato vine

Research has shown that the addition of pistachios to high-glycemic meals may lower the overall postprandial glycemic response. Furthermore, the green and purple colours of pistachios is given by lutein, xanthophyll carotenoids, and anthocyanins, pigments that present antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, lowering the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and chronic inflammation13.

Although cooking causes the loss of vitamin C in tomatoes, research has shown that the heating process increases the bioavailability of lycopene, phenolic compounds, and flavonoids14. These are antioxidant compounds that neutralize free radicals in the body and reduce the damage that cells and DNA have to face every day. Studies have shown that lycopene decreases the risk for osteoporosis, while other phytonutrients in tomatoes have heart-protective benefits, such as preventing unwanted aggregation of platelet cells, and therefore diminishing the risk factors for atherosclerosis15,16. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, a mineral essential for the heart and the nervous system. Potassium improves kidney function and reduces the risk of blood clotting, and hence it maintains normal blood pressure17.

The vegan lasagne recipe

Ragú:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 80 g lentils
  • 1.5 kg tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • A pinch of salt (to taste)

Besciamelle:

  • 0.5 L vegetable broth
  • 100 g pistachios (can use cashews instead)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • A pinch of nutmeg

For a gluten-free version, it is possible to replace the lasagne sheets with thin slices of sweet potatoes.

For the ragú, sautée the onion in olive oil until golden, then add the chopped tomatoes and lentils. Once everything is cooked, add slices of kale leaves. Personally I like to cut out the hard centre of the leaves.

For the besciamelle, leave the pistachios to soak overnight. This will make the nuts softer and the cream smoother. Blend these together with vegetable broth, one garlic clove and a pinch of nutmeg.

To assemble the dish, add alternating layers of ragú, pasta sheets, and besciamelle. Bake at 200°C for 20’.

Enjoy the lasagne!

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References

1. Kahlon, T. S. Chiv, M. C. and Chapman, M.H. 2008. Steam cooking significally improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage. Nutrition Research. 28(6): 351-357.

2. Ambrosone, C. B. and Tang, L. 2009. Cruciferous vegetable intake and cancer prevention: role of nutrigenetics. Cancer Prevention Research. 2(4): 298-300.

3. Higdon, J. V. et al. 2007. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological Research. 55(3): 224-236.

4. Prawan, A. et al. 2009. Anti-NF-kappaB and anti-inflammatory activities of synthetic isocyanates: effect of chemical structures and cellular signalling. Chemico-Biological Interactions. 179(2-3): 2002-2011.

5. Grune, T. et al. 2010. Beta-carotene is an important vitamin A source for humans. Journal of Nutrition. 140(12): 22685-22855.

6. Zhu, K. Prince, R. L. 2012. Calcium and bone. Clinical Biochemistry. 25: 936-942.

7. Atkins, G. J. et al. 2009. Vitamin K promotes mineralization, osteoblast-to-osteocyte transition, and an anticatabolic phenotype by {gamma}-carboxylation-dependent and –independent mechanisms. American Journal of Physiology – Cell Physiology. 297(6): C1358-C1367.

8. Halsted, C. H. et al. 2007. Relations of glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPH) polymorphisms to folate and homocysteine concentrations and to scores of cognition, anxiety, and depression in a homogeneous Norwegian population: the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 86(2): 514-521.

9. Santilli, F. Davì, G. Patrono, C. 2015. Homocysteine, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, folate status and atherothrombosis: A mechanistic and clinical perspective. Vascular Pharmacology. doi: 10.1016/j.vph.2015.06.009.

10. McIntosh, M. Miller, C. 2001. A diet containing food rich in soluble and insoluble fibre improves glycemic control and reduces hyperlipidemia among patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition Reviews. 59(2): 52-55.

11. Karb, S. Singh, V. 2000. Magnesium deficiency potentiates free radical production associated with myocardial infarction. Journal of Associated Physicians India. 48(5): 484-485.

12. Lonnerdal, B. 2010. Calcium and iron absorption-mechanisms and public health relevance. International Journal of Vitamin and Nutritional Research. 80(4-5): 293-299.

13. Dreher, M. L. 2012. Pistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits. Nutrition Reviews. 70(4): 234-240.

14. Jacob, K. et al. 2010. Stability of carotenoids, phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid and antioxidant capacity of tomatoes during thermal processing. Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición. 60(2): 192-198.

15. Borguini, R. G. Torres, E. A. 2009. Tomatoes and Tomato Products as Dietary Sources of Antioxidants. Food Reviews International. 25(4): 313-325.

16. Willcox, J. K. Catignani, G. L. Lazarus, L. 2003. Tomatoes and Cardiovascular Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 43(1): 1-18.

17. McDonough, A. A. Nguyen, M. T. X. 2012. How does potassium supplementation lower blood pressure? Renal Physiology. 302: F1124-F1125.

Solange Brugnatelli Vianini

Solange Brugnatelli Vianini graduated in BSc Biomedical Sciences.

In her free time she enjoys trying out new recipes and sharing them with friends, and marrying this passion with her interest in sustainability, which is driving her actions towards reduced landfill waste, carbon footprint and animal products consumption. She cures a monthly recipe column on Nature Going Smart “with disease prevention in mind and planet care on the heart”.

Solange is currently researching genetic mutations by honing her bioinformatic skills at Abertay University, Scotland.

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