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Healing Kitchen

It Ain't Just Calcium
Most people when they think of bone health tend to automatically think of calcium. What most people don't know, however, is that it ain't just calcium. There is an entire supporting cast of nutrients (including magnesium, Vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, possibly boron, vitamin K, vitamin C, and zinc) that are also responsible for keeping your bones and teeth in good health.

One of the key players in maintaining bone health is magnesium. An essential mineral, magnesium is involved in more than 300 metabolic biological reactions, including skeletal metabolism. In fact, recent research suggests that magnesium isn't just a bonus for bone health but that a deficiency of this important mineral may actually contribute to osteoporosis, a dangerous disease that causes brittle bones. In working to prevent onset of osteoporosis, magnesium helps the body convert vitamin D into an efficient form that allows proper utilization of calcium. (Magnesium is also being studied for its ability to reduce symptoms of PMS.)

The Recipes
To start with, I made a list of the foods that are particularly high in magnesium. The list included wheat germ, wheat bran, tofu, beans, whole grains, lentils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and cocoa. Amaranth, sunflower seeds, quinoa, pumpkin and squash seeds are particularly rich sources. This did not immediately inspire me. (Cocoa and amaranth?) And all the nuts, grains, and seeds seemed to add up to a bird's dinner. But the trick was to use a combination of these magnesium-rich foods to create counterpoints of flavor and texture.

For example, in Sicilian-Style Toasted Quinoa, earthy Swiss chard and quinoa are spiked with the flavors of Sicily--sweet sun-dried tomatoes, plump golden raisins, and Parmesan cheese. Although pine nuts would be the traditional Sicilian choice, I chose sunflower seeds for their magnesium power.

Influenced by Italy but with decidedly Mexican undertones is Spinach Pasta with Avocado-Pumpkin Seed Pesto. Unctuous avocado combines with grilled peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and toasted pumpkin seeds to make a creamy sauce for spinach pasta.

The third recipe in this collection, while reminiscent of restaurant fare, is actually a snap to make. Halibut Fillets with Toasted Wheat Germ & Almonds features thick slices of halibut coated with wheat germ and almonds, sauteed until crisp and golden and served with a simple lemon wedge. The contrast of crisp coating and silky fish is a winning combination.

These recipes fit the bill for strong bones, good teeth, and a satisfied palate.

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Author: Sandra Rose Gluck
Date Published: 03/16/2000
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