Can you believe I’ve never put a zoodle recipe on the blog?! All the cool kids are making zoodles these days, so why shouldn’t we get on that buzz too. Plus, zoodles are super easy to make, meaning they’re the perfect addition to your healthy weeknight din routine. In case you’re coming up blank looking at the term ‘zoodle’ right now, they’re noodles made from zucchini (courgette as we called them when I was growing up). You make them by winding your zucchini using a special tool called a spiraliser, and voila – easy vege noodles in just a few mins, that you don’t even need to cook.
If you’re looking for a lighter solution in the mid- week (ideal after that indulgent corporate/group lunch), this recipe is for you.
Yes, this glorious bowl of oodly noodly Creamy Pesto Zoodles is:
- Done in 15 mins (not home til 7pm? Purrrfect);
- No cooking needed – just a spiraliser and blender, and voila you’re a raw food goddess;
- The ideal summer to spring dish, when zucchinis, avos, and toms are in season;
- Sure to fit any style diet that you (or your house mates) might be following right now… aka raw, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, low carb, paleo, keto, and nut free; and
- So creamy and satisfying, you (and the hubby/partner/flatties/kiddos) will never realise you’re actually eating a plate of pure vege!
Don’t have a veggie spiraliser? No probs. Grab a peeler and I’ll show you below how you can make these too. Let’s get zoodling…
These zoodles have an extra punch of protein thanks to the addition of moringa powder, as well as incidental protein from the zucchini, avocado, and tomatoes. But what is protein, where should we be getting it from, and how much do we actually need?
PROTEIN – THE FACTS, AND MISCONCEPTIONS (PART 1)
I’ve written about protein many times here on the blog before, namely in this Top 75 Sources piece here, these Green Protein Pizzas here, and this Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake here. However, I felt it good timing to recap again on a topic that is still very much misunderstood.
Today I’m therefore going to start on part one of a three-part series, covering the facts and misconceptions around protein. Namely:
- What it is and why we need it;
- Where can find it on a plant-based diet (hint – it’s omnipresent);
- How much we need – for women, men, children, infants, in pregnancy, and during lactation too;
- Common misconceptions that come along with #2 and #3 above; and
- Easy plant-based meal combinations and ideas, which will ensure you’re getting all you need.
Today I’ll cover #1 and #2 above, as well as a bit of #4. Part two you can find here, which covers #3 in depth, as well as more #4. Finally, part three will cover #5, so you can put all the information and tips into practice.
If you’re signed up for my weekly blogs (if you’re not, do so here!), you’ll get the subsequent parts of this series, since I’ll send the full summary to my email subs once its complete, in a reference style fact sheet on the blog, so you can find everything you need to about protein all in one place. In the meantime, if you have any questions you’d like me to answer specifically on protein, leave me a comment below this blog post, or over on my latest posts on Instagram or Facebook.
What is protein?
Protein is an essential dietary macronutrient, alongside carbohydrate, fat, and water. Its main role is cellular growth and repair, to maintain and replace our body tissues. It is not a “food”, as is often thought, but a nutrient found within many different foods. Protein is formed in the body by the joining amino acids – 11 of which can be produced by our own bodies, and 9 of which must be ingested from our food.
We don’t need to consume every amino acid with every meal. Instead, we just need to consume a range of amino acids over the course of a few day, and the body will pool these amino acids as necessary to create the protein molecules it needs. The age-old “complete protein” argument, ie which said you needed to consume all amino acids with every meal (and thus was a convenient argument for the meat industry to suggest protein from animal flesh was superior), was scientifically debunked years ago. They still use language to fool us though, eg plant-proteins are “inferior”, “incomplete” – heard that before? Yep, meat/egg industry talk.
The proteins in our body are continually being broken down and resynthesized. Unlike carbohydrate and fat, protein is not able to be stored at all in our bodies, and thus we need to be replace it regularly (through internal production of 11 aminos, and external consumption of the remaining 9).
Where do we get protein?
Another misconception is that meat, seafood, and eggs are the sole and only sources of protein available for our consumption. This is just patently false. Most meats in fact contain only 15-22% protein, with the rest being saturated fat and water. In contrast, many plant-foods easily achieve 15-22% protein levels, and much more. But I bet you’ve never thought of “oats” as “protein”? The meat industry would have you believe that oats (and similar grains such as rice, spelt,) are pure carbs. Again. FALSE. Oats in fact contain 16% protein (rest being healthy fibre, carbohydrates, and heart-healthy fats). Wild rice and spelt meanwhile are not far below at 15% protein. So when you make a delicious vegan cheese scone using spelt flour such as these ones here, that’s right – PROTEIN. In fact, grain-based foods already make up 25% of the total protein consumed by New Zealanders and Australians. If you’re interested a complete list of protein sources, I compiled this table here previously, using the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) National Nutrient Database as well as additional references from individual manufacturers.
We need to stop succumbing to industry jargon and thinking of meat = protein. Instead, it is rather a source of unnecessary exogenous cholesterol, animal saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals, plastic micro particles, and pesticides. That’s right, if you’re trying to reduce your pesticide exposure, the first thing you should reduce is your meat and animal protein consumption. Pesticides and other toxins naturally store themselves in fat, and therefore the highest pesticide containing foods are animal meats and products. Even if they’re “organic” (ie consume organic feed), they are still breathing in pesticides and toxins from the environment, which is harboured in the fatty flesh we then eat.
In addition, meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy (our supposed ‘protein’ saviours), are the only foods to contain animal saturated fats. These fats are the sole fats which have been shown to cause a plethora of chronic disease, from cancer to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions to arthritis, and diabetes. Saturated forms of fats also exist in plants (every almond you eat contains ‘saturated fat’), however these plant-derived saturated fats are universally uncorrelated with any of the above diseases.
Finally – where do the animals we consume get their protein? Cows, sheep, pigs – they are not fed “meat”. They’re fed plants only. And that my friend is exactly where they get their amino acids from, which they form into protein which grows their muscle. So let’s cut out the unhealthy and ethically unsound middle man, and go straight to the source instead.
That’s it on what protein is, and where we can get it. Next update I’ll cover how much protein you actually need (and for different genders and age groups, from infants right through to pregnant women and the elderly), and finally the latest research on protein and what quantities and types are associated with the best health outcomes. I’m sure you can guess, but the summary is plant-based proteins, in moderate (not super high) quantities are currently leading the scientific research stakes in terms of optimal health.
In the meantime, how about experimenting with some new sources of plant-based protein in your diet? That means, instead of relying on meat, eggs, fish, seafood, and dairy, opt instead for legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and dark green leafy vegetables. You can then supplement these if you like with a few more superfood style proteins, such as this moringa powder from BioBalance that I’ve included in these Creamy Pesto Zoodles. Moringa is a very high protein plant food, at 27% (well above any meat), and has a very neutral and palatable flavour so it’s easy to add to meals. I particularly find it lends itself super well to savoury dishes, and this pesto pasta is the perfect example. I’ve spoken more about the considerable benefits of Moringa here, when I added it to pizza (yes, it’s that versatile!). As always with these up-and-coming superfoods, I strongly recommend you make sure you’re sourcing from organic and ethical suppliers (like BioBalance), so that you know your enjoyment of this new and fantastic food source isn’t leading to exploitation or environmental degradation in the country where it’s grown.
Just to note quickly: there are a lot of spiralisers on the market now spiralising is so trendy, but I’d absolutely recommend this one here above the rest (more on that in the notes). But, if you don’t have one quite yet, don’t fret – you can still make this meal! Simply shave the zucchini with a veggie peeler then slice into strips, or cut into thin slivers and slice into strips. You don’t want the noodles too thick otherwise they’ll be rigid – go for a size similar to my pics here (around 2-4mm diameter).
And, that’s it, get on these zoodles! I hope you’re also now a bit more clued up on what protein is (with more to come soon). Note that a lot of the information we see (including our recommended food pyramid guides) is in fact marketing material crafted by the meat, seafood, dairy and egg industries, and not scientifically based educational material. You only need to look on the back of a pamphlet or research report to see who’s written it to see this (eg protein and iron pamphlets you see in midwives rooms? Written by the Beef and Lamb Association of New Zealand).
Make these Creamy Pesto Zoodles, and tag me on Insta if you do! As always, use @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics on your insta feed or story, or on FB just publish your creations to my main page here.
Can’t wait to see what you come up with, and til next week, stay happy and well!
PS If you like this recipe, I’d love you to pin it on Pinterest, share it on Facebook, post your recreation on Instagram (tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics), or share it with your family and friends. Also, if you’re not already subscribed to my weekly recipe emails, be sure to do that here, and don’t miss my next recipe video by signing up to my YouTube here.
And, if you’re interested in one-on-one advice, I have a small number of Naturopathic and Nutrition consultations available each week, either in person or via Skype – you can find more information on those here.
Please note – if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements below, please read my recipe notes.
- 4 zucchini 600g
- 1 1/2 c small tomatoes quartered
- 2 c baby spinach
- 1/2 c black olives halved
Avocado, Basil & Moringa Pesto
- 1 c basil leaves
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 c water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice or flesh of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp moringa optional
- Cashew parmesan optional
- Blend pesto until smooth, then add to zucchini and baby spinach, stirring gently.
- Finally add tomatoes and olives, reserving a few to top, and mix very gently until just combined.
- Serve immediately topped with reserved tomatoes, olives, and cashew parmesan if desired.
- Make it nut free: make the parmesan nut-free by using watermelon seeds or sunflower seeds instead of cashews - or just omit and top with nutritional yeast.
- The avocado based pesto means this dish is served best on the day (to avoid the avo going brown).
- If you don’t have moringa, you can omit it, or sub with 1/4 tsp of spirulina or chlorella (these have a stronger flavour so use less).
- If tomatoes aren’t in season, you can sub them with snow peas, fresh/frozen peas, or lightly blanched green beans (for some crunch).
- Baby spinach can also easily be substituted for rocket.
- You can also make this with your fav spaghetti noodle if zucchini aren't in season or if you don't have a spiraliser (though you should totally get one here) - I like this spelt linguine, this edamame spaghetti, and these kelp noodles. Or try make it with kumara/sweet potato, or parsnip spiralised noodles! If using the former, just lightly steam/blanch them after spiralising before adding the sauce.
- I recommend the Benriner Spiraliser (stocked in our store here) above all others for a few reasons. Firstly, it's traditional style and made in Japan. The Japanese were the first of us to get in the spiralising craze, and have been twirling and noodling everything from carrot to daikon for decades. The Benriner means that now you too can look like a pro! In fact, it's so pro that it's used by chefs in many Japanese restaurants where I've asked. In addition, it's got a really good construction and four different blades, so you can make thin vermicelli style noodles, right up to spaghetti and thick linguine. You're also welcome to drop more questions below, or to my email inbox should you have any!