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Recipe for Health: Chicken Spelt Salad With Blueberry Vinaigrette

Chicken Spelt Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette: A fresh opportunity to get more antioxidants into your life.

Want to keep your heartbeat strong? Then don’t skimp on antioxidants. A study last year found that people whose diets had the highest antioxidant capacity—a measure of how well foods can thwart cell-damaging free radicals—had about a 22% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease over 13 years than those whose diet packed the weakest antioxidant punch. That study, reported in the European Journal of Nutrition, used dietary data from 23,595 U.S. adults.

Similarly, a study authored by researchers in France and published in the October 2018 issue of Nutrients found that among more than 84,000 adults involved in the investigation, those with higher intakes of polyphenol antioxidants (specifically anthocyanins, catechins and flavonols, like those found in berries, green tea and leafy greens, respectively) experienced lower rates of heart disease over a median of 5 years.

There’s even more reason to have an appetite for antioxidants: A third study found strong evidence that higher dietary intakes and blood concentrations of the antioxidants vitamin C and carotenoids (such as beta-carotene in carrots and sweet potatoes) are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. These findings, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, emerged from Norwegian and British researchers’ systematic review and meta-analysis of 69 studies.

The more antioxidants there are in your diet, the less susceptible your body may be to oxidative damage from free radicals, and that protection can help to ward off various maladies, including heart disease. Serving up this colorful, antioxidant-packed salad is a great way to show your heart some love. Makes four servings.

Chicken Spelt Salad With Blueberry Vinaigrette

2T + 2t extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 C spelt

1 C fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries

2 T balsamic vinegar

2 t honey

2 t fresh thyme

2 t Dijon mustard

1 t lemon zest

1 garlic clove, grated or minced

1/4 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

1/4 t red chili flakes

8 C baby spinach

1/2 C sliced basil or mint

4 red radishes, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, sliced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 ounces crumbled goat cheese

2 C sliced cooked chicken

1/4 C unsalted roasted sunflower seeds

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add spelt, stir to coat the grains in oil and heat, stirring occasionally, until grains smell toasted, 3–5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and enough water to cover spelt by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until spelt is tender but not mushy, about 35 minutes. Drain spelt and spread out on a baking sheet to dry.

To make the dressing, place blueberries, 2 tablespoons of water, balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme, mustard, lemon zest, garlic, salt, black pepper and chili flakes in a blender container and blend until smooth. With the machine running on low, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil through the top tube.

To assemble the salad, divide spelt, spinach, basil or mint, radishes, carrots, bell pepper, goat cheese, and chicken among serving plates. Drizzle on blueberry dressing and sprinkle sunflower seeds on top.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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