Today we bring you Oasis’ healthy version of a North American staple dish that you can find on almost every diner’s menu. It is creamy and homey, usually served hot or warm. This dish originated in England and is traditionally a casserole baked in the oven… Any guesses?
Mac and Cheese (or macaroni and cheese)
Can that even be possible on a raw vegan diet? Everyone knows that at An Oasis of Healing, we avoid dairy and animal products and most cooked foods, especially high carbohydrate, low nutrition foods such as pasta. So, how can macaroni and cheese become part of our menu?
First, yes, it is possible to make a raw vegan version of mac and cheese, that is equally creamy, and warm and can give you that “feel good” comfort of something you are used to eating. Because although we believe raw vegan food is both delicious and nutritious, we understand that for most people transitioning to a raw vegan diet can be a huge step. It requires adaptation. So, making sure that the transition is smooth and gratifying can be one of the keys to successfully eating healthy long term. We also know that sometimes your body will feel better if you eat something that makes you “feel at home,” or that you can share with others. Furthermore, we are aware that in the winter, especially in colder climates, it is important to incorporate warming foods and dishes.
For these reasons and more, we decided that it is important, if not paramount, that sometimes our meals feel and taste like the dishes we grew up with. And that is why we came up with “raw vegan” versions of dishes that are staples of the standard American diet. The original versions are depleted of nutritional value and health benefits, while our “take” on these foods is super nutrient dense.
As you probably know, and the name indicates, traditional Mac and Cheese has two main ingredients: pasta, usually macaroni pasta, and a cheese sauce, most commonly cheddar. For our Mac-N-Cheese, you will also have a “pasta” made of spiralized yellow squash and a “cheese” sauce, whose main ingredient is cashews. Let’s dive in!
Yellow squash is a type of summer squash belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae, scientific name Cucurbita pepo. This means that yellow squash and zucchini are the same species, and both are summer squashes but different cultivars. So, what is the difference?
Zucchini is generally deep green, although some can be golden yellow, while the yellow squash is, quite obviously, bright yellow. In terms of shape, zucchini is mainly straight, while yellow squash tends to exhibit a bulbous bottom that tapers as it gets toward the top. The seeds are bigger, and usually, yellow squash doesn’t grow as big as zucchini. The health benefits are also similar to those of zucchini.
Yellow squash is low in calories, fat, and sugar and is a source of fiber and certain nutrients. Most antioxidants are in the skin, which means it is better to eat the squash with the peel.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Yellow Squash1,2,3
- Excellent source of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, contributing to: defense against oxidative stress and free radical damage, improving immunity, and even to prevent and help treat infection and cancer.
- Contains important antioxidants, namely phenolic compounds and carotenoids. These include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and dehydroascorbic acid. These compounds exhibit anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities, both beneficial for cancer treatment and other chronic illnesses.
- Good source of vitamin A, Vitamin K, and some B-complex vitamins, namely pyridoxine (B-6), riboflavin (B-2), and folate (B-9).
- Good source of potassium, an extremely important intracellular electrolyte, and magnesium, and other minerals, such as iron and phosphorus.
Cashews are botanically a drupe, and the scientific name of the cashew tree is Anacardium occidentale. Cashews are nutty, creamy, and crunchy, and one of the people’s favorite nuts (although not truly a nut). On the downside, the shell of the cashew contains a toxic organic compound called urushiol, with allergenic properties. Urushiol is a potent skin irritant and is the same compound present in poison ivy that causes the characteristic itchy rash. Thus, to be safely handled by workers, the whole cashew is treated under a high flame to destroy the urushiol toxin and then deshelled to extract the kernel, the edible part of the cashew.
Therefore, cashews are never raw when they reach the stores, even if labeled so; they would not be safe for handling or consumption if raw and have always to be treated at high temperatures. That, and the fact that they are higher in sugar, are the two reasons we try not to use cashews often in our kitchen, and recommend you use another creamy nut or seed instead, such as macadamias or pine nuts.
That said, cashews still constitute a great source of dietary fiber, energy, vitamins, and minerals (partially lost during heat treatment).
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Cashews4,5
- Great source of energy, mainly from healthy fats, and of soluble dietary fiber, essential for the digestive system function and gut health.
- Cashews are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids, which contribute to balanced lipid profiles and can be beneficial for health, especially heart health.
- Good sources of B vitamins such as thiamin (B-1), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6), and folate (B-9), essential for the metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates at the cellular level.
- Cashews are excellent sources of minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, iron, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium. For example, a handful of cashew nuts a day provides enough content of most of these minerals and may help prevent deficiencies.
- In terms of phytonutrients, cashews contain small amounts of zeaxanthin, a vital flavonoid antioxidant.
We have several posts that highlight the beneficial properties of turmeric and can be found on our blog, especially in what relates to the Benefits of Curcumin for Healing Cancer. Turmeric, scientific name Curcuma longa, belongs to the ginger family and has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicines for thousands of years and is believed to be one of the most powerful disease-fighting herbs on the planet. Turmeric is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and has more than 300 biologically active compounds.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Turmeric6,7,8,9,10
- Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, immune booster, antiviral, and protective agent against cancer. Turmeric’s antioxidant strength is one of the highest among all herbs and spices.
- Curcumin is the main curcuminoid and bioactive component of turmeric. This phytochemical has many therapeutic properties, including antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-mutagenic, anti-amyloidogenic, and anti-inflammatory.
- Curcumin selectively targets cancer stem cells while having little to no toxicity for normal stem cells; normal stem cells are essential for tissue regeneration and longevity.
- Turmeric is an excellent source of certain B vitamins, especially pyridoxine (vitamin B6), but also niacin (B3), and riboflavin (B2).
- Also, a very good source of the essential and highly beneficial vitamins C, E, and K.
- Rich in many minerals, such as iron, manganese, copper, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Curcumin anticancer effects:
- Anti-inflammatory – cancer stems from chronic inflammation
- Angiogenesis – suppresses the formation of new blood vessels
- Invasion, growth/proliferation – inhibits cancer cell proliferation
- Cytotoxicity – directly kills cancer cells
- Apoptosis – programmed cell death
- Oncogenic metabolism/metabolic reprogramming – changes the metabolism of cancer cells
- Lactogenesis – excess lactate production
- pH balance – acid/base balance
- Alterations in the tumor microenvironment – changes in the environment surrounding tumors
- Cell survival – increases survival of healthy cells
- Tumor escape, metastasis – reduces incidence of metastasis
- Cancer stem cells – kills cancer stem cells
- Immunomodulation – modulation of the immune system
- Among others.
Ready to enjoy your Mac-N-Cheese? Gather the family and friends, or enjoy it by yourself, but always be grateful for the food that nourishes your body and contributes to your health and happiness! 😊
Here is the recipe for a healthy Mac-N-Cheese that will leave your taste buds asking for more!
- Makes: 6 servings Prep time: 30 minutes • Total time: 2 hours
For the macaroni:
- 8 yellow squashes, spiralized
- Pinch of salt
For the cheese:
- 1 ½ cup cashews
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp salt
Roughly chop the spiralized squash, toss with a pinch of salt, and let sit in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes to soften.
In a high-power blender, combine cheese ingredients and blend on high until completely smooth (this is a very thick sauce, so you may have to use your blender’s tamper tool).
Mix spiralized squash and cheese sauce in a bowl and then spread into a glass dish.
Place in the dehydrator at 110 °F for 1 to 2 hours to warm through.
Top with Brazil nut parmesan and a pinch of black pepper or smoked paprika.
Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Summer squash, yellow, raw. Published October 30, 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103378/nutrients, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- Levy J. Dr. Axe. Yellow Squash Nutrition Facts (Plus Benefits of This Summer Vegetable). Published Dec 26, 2021. https://draxe.com/nutrition/yellow-squash-nutrition/, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Zucchini Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/zucchini.html, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Nuts, cashew nuts, raw. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170162/nutrients, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Cashew Nut Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cashew_nut.html, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Spices, turmeric, ground. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172231/nutrients, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- Pinto V. An Oasis of Healing. Health Articles. Anti-Cancer Foods. Published Jul 06, 2022. https://www.anoasisofhealing.com/anti-cancer-foods/, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- Pinto V. An Oasis of Healing. Health Articles. Benefits of Curcumin for Healing Cancer. Published May 05, 2022. https://www.anoasisofhealing.com/benefits-of-curcumin-for-healing-cancer/, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- An Oasis of Healing. Health Articles. The Power of Curcumin to Fight Cancer. Published Jun 21, 2021. https://www.anoasisofhealing.com/the-power-of-curcumin-to-fight-cancer/, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Turmeric Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/turmeric.html, accessed Dec 2, 2022.
Vanessa Pinto graduated with a degree in Biology and Masters in Ecology from Lisbon University. After graduating, she underwent a series of professional and personal growth experiences, including being an officer in the Portuguese Army, working in countries as diverse as Iceland and Costa Rica. Vanessa became certified as a Yoga and Meditation teacher in rural India.
Being a compassionate person by nature, Vanessa is able to bring her connectedness when working with others while enhancing the importance and practicality of a pragmatic evidence-based approach to facilitating lasting and permanent change. Vanessa is a certified health coach whose specialties are nutrition, exercise, and mind/ body connection. She works both in Portugal, Thailand and USA, where she develops her work closely with people diagnosed with cancer, mainly in the areas of nutrition, movement and health education.