If you’re already a healthy eater, you know how flavorful good-for-you food can be. Fresh ingredients, in season, are game changers in how we feel and how we use food as medicine. Culinary genomics is this and more, bringing cutting edge genomic science into how you choose, prepare and cook ingredients. The flavor, look and communal aspects of food are important to me and proven to be a factor in maintaining health and longevity. I coined the term culinary genomics to underscore the importance of using ingredients to best effect and how the art of eating well is healthiest when combined with the art of living well. It’s where science gets delicious.
Genes influence specific biochemical pathways and systems in the body that impact things like blood sugar levels and blood pressure. By incorporating new findings on the role food plays in turning specific genes on or off, we guide you through the process of creating your own nutrition prescription for your health. By matching ingredients to the tasks you want your genes to perform, culinary genomics takes the food:gene matchmaking a step further with recommended techniques to optimize nutritional performance.
For example, inflammation lies at the root of most chronic disease and occurs when the natural biochemical machinery of your body gets out of balance. Think of it like riding a bike with one tire full of air and the other almost flat. You can only ride so far before the flat tire overcomes your pedal power and you have to stop. Inflammation prevents the biochemical wheels of your body from turning smoothly. Nf-kB (N-F-kappa-B) is a gene identified as turning on inflammation in the body. By choosing foods rich in the bioactives curcumin or quercetin, you can actually block the mechanism that activates Nf-kB. At the grocery store, add fresh or dried turmeric root to your shopping basket to put curcumin on your plate. You can incorporate quercetin into your diet by fine-tuning your choices in the produce department. Simply add onions, garlic, radishes, fennel and cilantro to your basket. Now walk back into the kitchen.
Selection of these ingredients can shape the type of recipes you prepare. A simple sauté of onions and garlic adds a wonderful base flavor to many recipes and communicates to Nf-kB to stand down. Turmeric is easily added to simple curries or even teas and smoothies and sends that same message to Nf-kB. Buy radishes with fresh leaves intact and add both plant parts to your salad or sandwich. Using the whole plant not only stretches your food dollar but also provides a powerful anti-inflammatory block to Nf-kB.
Get started in culinary genomics with this recipe for Braised Fennel And Tomatoes With Olives, a favorite I’ve adapted from an original from Chef Deborah Madison.