'Tis the season for midterms and time for smart eating. By “smart eating” I don’t mean eating lots of veggies (that, too), but eating foods rich in Omega-3 fats. They improve concentration, sharpen the mind and help our kids cope with stress. The usual suspects are wild-caught salmon, flax seeds and walnuts, but none of those is particularly child-friendly. So those of us blessed with kids who won’t eat fish or nuts can opt for grass-raised foods.
“Grass-raised foods have a high level of omega-3 fats in them which have been known to help with learning, concentration and brain development,” says my friend Sabina, a dietitian/nutritionist. “I recommend at least 4 ounces of omega-3-rich protein daily. This can include grass-fed meat, eggs from pastured hens or wild-caught cold water fatty fish. Limiting junk food and tipping the scale in favor of more Omega-3 fats can only be beneficial for our children. And, as always, all in moderation - fats are high in calories.” (for more information about the health benefits of grass-raised food please visit EatWild.com).
Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in grass. Sadly, we humans can’t really digest grass so we rely on other animals to do it for us. If a cow, for example, eats grass her milk will be rich in Omega-3 fats, if a hen eats grass her eggs will be Omega-3 rich, too. For a vivid illustration of this matter please refer to this video, prepared by my very own kids.
Apropos milk, whenever you can, consume it cultured (i.e cheese or yogurt) and raw. This way it is more nutritious and much easier to digest.
Unfortunately, pursuing grass-raised foods may be too involving for a time- and budget-challenged person. If you want to enjoy the benefits of grass-raised foods without breaking the bank, go for one of my favorite products in the whole wide world: The Magical Ghee (Indian clarified butter) from Pure Indian Foods.
This ghee, made of raw milk from pastured cows, is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids and other great nutrients. As you can see in the picture, it has that golden hue, typical of food-from-grass and it is just incredible in the kitchen. A drizzle would upgrade the most mundane of foods to a delicious, rich creation. Did I mention it was magic?
So if you are, say, a hurried working parent or a college student whose only cooking vessel is the microwave, try to defrost that broccoli and then drizzle it with some melted ghee. You’ll be amazed by what it does to the broccoli… Conveniently, Pure Indian Foods has an online store and a great website with lots and information and recipes.
By the way, I saw Pure Indian Foods’ owner, Sandeep Agarwal at the the Slow Food Farmers Market, and he told me about a new product: ghee made with cultured milk. Cultured ghee is used extensively in Ayurveda as basis to many medicines. I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m sure it’s amazing. More to come!
To get the best out of the Omega-3 fats in the ghee try not to heat it beyond a gentle simmer. Indian cooks use it in tarka, which is a mix of ghee simmered with spices. They drizzle it on dishes at the end of cooking.
There are countless versions of tarka. Here is my Mediterranean take:
A vegan option: use avocado oil.
6 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped marjoram
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
A pinch of chili flakes
Put ghee in a skillet over medium heat until it is melted and foamy (or shimmering if using avocado oil). Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley and simmer very gently until soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and parsley. simmer just below boiling for just another 30 seconds or so, then turn off heat.