As Covid-19 puts the pinch on festivities, the best St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will be those held at home.
That’s good luck for home cooks, say scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, as elements of a traditional shamrock-centric meal have surprising nutritional advantages.
Skin-on, red potatoes are an excellent low-calorie food rich in vitamins B6 and C and packed with even more potassium than a banana, a mineral shown to help control blood pressure, said OMRF physician-scientist and Irish American Patrick Gaffney, M.D.
“If you pick roasting over frying and skip the heaps of butter and cheese, potatoes are great, health-wise,” said Gaffney. “Olive oil and spices are all your spuds need.”
Noses turn at boiled cabbage, but variations in preparation — and expanding your gaze to its cruciferous cousins — make this green a goody.
OMRF scientist Scott Plafker, Ph.D., is studying whether sulforaphane, a natural compound found in cabbage and the closely related broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, can protect against age-related vision loss.
Studies have shown the compound to have a host of health benefits, including anti-cancer effects. “Vegetables like cabbage are available without prescriptions or high costs,” said Plafker. “That’s the best kind of treatment.”
3. Corned beef
The cornerstone of most St. Paddy’s Day meals, corned beef brisket is packed with protein, antioxidants and iron. Those benefits notwithstanding, it’s a dish best enjoyed in moderation, says Gaffney.
“Enjoy the corned beef,” said Gaffney. “But take it easy. A diet high in red and processed meats is linked to a higher risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”
A quintessentially Irish pint of dark beer overflows with antioxidants, soluble fiber and folate, a vitamin that our bodies need to make DNA and other genetic material, said Gaffney, a geneticist.
“On top of that, dark beer has been shown to offer some protection against heart disease,” he said. “In moderation, of course.”
This St. Patrick’s Day, grin (green?) and bear another holiday at home. If you’re so inclined, try out a hearty — and healthy — traditional Irish meal.
“Remember, more is not always better,” said Gaffney. “When it comes to Irish food and drink, there’s a lot to love. Just don’t love too much of it.”