Healthy Recipe Series
Continuing our Healthy Recipe Series, here is a main dish for the lovers of Italian cuisine! During your cancer healing program, you want to avoid processed foods, especially those rich in simple carbohydrates, such as bread, crackers, pasta, lasagna, etc. However, you can still prepare amazingly delicious raw vegan meals inspired by those foods. The alternatives we propose are going to deliver immense nutrition, while at the same time being super healthy and tasty.
Tasty Raw Vegan Lasagna
In this dish we have four main components: the zoodles (zucchini noodles), the sauce, the nut cheese, and the pesto.
We will highlight some of the health benefits and nutritional value of one ingredient within each one of these components. The zucchini from the zoodles, the tomatoes from the sauce, the macadamias from the cheese and the basil from the pesto.
Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a popular summer squash, botanically a fruit belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae, scientific name Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini and courgette are etymological twins, both descending from the Latin cucurbita, meaning ‘gourd’.
Zucchini is believed to have been originated in the Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America region), however the variety mostly used nowadays (the green, cylindrical squash harvested immature) was cultivated in Northern Italy, hence the name zucchini (from the Italian zucca, meaning ‘marrow’).
Zucchini is low in calories, and a good source of fiber and certain nutrients. It is a great alternative to most of the traditional pasta dishes.
Nutritional Profile and Health benefits of Zucchini1,2
- Excellent source of the powerful antioxidant vitamin-C (17.9 µg per 100g of fresh pods; 30% RDA), contributing to reduce free radical damage, to improve immunity and even to prevent and help treat infection and cancer.
- Some varieties are rich in antioxidants, especially the polyphenolic flavonoids carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
- Good source of Vitamin-A and some vitamins of the B-complex, namely pyridoxine (B-6), riboflavin (B-2) and folate (B-9).
- Moderate source of potassium, an extremely important intracellular electrolyte, and other minerals, such as iron, phosphorus, and manganese.
Tomatoes, scientific name Lycopersicon esculentum, are fruits, botanically berries, but are usually eaten as vegetables. They belong to the family Solanaceae or nightshade family of vegetables, which includes other vegetables like peppers, potatoes, eggplant, etc. Tomatoes originate from western South America, Mexico, and Central America.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of powerful antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber! Tomatoes are also a significant source of the umami flavor!
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Tomatoes3,4
- Excellent source of vitamin-A (833 IU per 100g; 28% RDA) and good source of vitamin-C (13mg per 100g; 21% RDA), both protective against cancer and essential for many bodily functions.
- Contains high levels of lycopene; an organic pigment called a carotenoid, that gives tomatoes their characteristic red color.
- Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, present abundantly in tomatoes, especially in ripe, red tomatoes. Dietary consumption of carotenoids, such as lycopene and α and ß-carotenes, is associated with a decrease in the risk of breast, cervical, vaginal, colorectal cancers, and cardiovascular and eye diseases5.
- Lycopene has the greatest antioxidant potential among carotenoids. The antioxidant function of different carotenoids is based on several different mechanisms: reducing free radicals, mitigating damage from reactive oxidant species, and hindering lipid peroxidation. Together with carotenoids, lycopene may help protect cells and organs in humans against harmful oxygen-free radicals5.
- Tomatoes also contain abundant zea-xanthin and other antioxidant flavonoids such as α and ß-carotenes, xanthins, and lutein. Diets rich in flavonoids from fruits and vegetables have been found to be protective against cancer and other lifestyle diseases.
- Good source of vitamin-K and some of the B-complex vitamins such as niacin (B-3), pyridoxine (B-6), and folate (B-9). B-vitamins work in conjunction as cofactors for enzymes in cellular metabolism.
- Good source of minerals such as potassium, manganese, and iron.
Macadamia is a genus of at least four species of trees in the flowering plant family Proteaceae. However only two species are edible and cultivated to produce macadamia nuts for human consumption, Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia tetraphylla; the hybrid of these two species is one of the most common commercial varieties. Macadamia integrifolia produces smooth-shelled nuts, whereas Macadamia tetraphylla produces rough-shelled nuts.
Macadamia nuts are a superior source of energy, nutrients, essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Macadamia6,7
- Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) such as oleic acid (18:1) and palmitoleic acids (16:1), contributing to a healthy blood lipid profile. Dietary MUFAs help lower total and LDL cholesterol and increase HDL.
- Great source of B-complex vitamins, such as thiamin (100% RDA), pyridoxine (21% RDA), niacin (15% RDA), pantothenic acid (15% RDA) and riboflavin (12% RDA).
- Modest source of vitamin-E, a powerful antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of mucosa and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Excellent source of minerals such as manganese (180% RDA!), copper, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Rich source of phytosterols, plant sterols, such as ß-sitosterol. Structurally, phytosterols are similar to cholesterol, but when consumed by humans they actually act as cholesterol-lowering agents.
- Macadamias have a high caloric density (about 718 calories per 100g of nuts) – one of the highest among seeds and nuts.
- Very high in dietary fiber (8.6 grams per 100 g of macadamia; 23% RDA).
Basil is one of the main herbs used in diverse cuisines all around the world, is often also called the ‘great basil’, scientific name Ocimum basilicum. The sweet basil variety is the most widely used for culinary purposes, but there are many other cultivars such as Thai basil and lemon basil. You may also have heard of ‘holy basil’ or tulsi, which is a different species, Ocimum tenuiflorum.
Basil is rich in powerful plant chemicals, known for its health promoting benefits, and it has been grown for centuries due to the medicinal properties of both its leaves and seeds.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Basil8,9
- Excellent source of Vitamin-K (414.8 µg PER 100 grams of fresh leaves; 345% RDA!), essential for blood coagulation and bone health.
- Excellent source of Vitamin-A (5275 mg per 100 grams of fresh basil leaves; 175% RDA), a very important antioxidant, which may protect against several cancers, and is essential for healthy vision, skin, and mucosa.
- Abundant phytochemicals, like the flavonoids vicenin and orientin, with potential antioxidant properties.
- Source of several essential oils, with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene, and terpineol.
- Contains very high levels of beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Compounds that can offer protection against free radical damage, promoting health and preventing many diseases and aging.
- Basil herb contains a good amount of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Here is the full recipe for our tasty raw vegan Lasagna!
- Makes: 8 servings • Prep time: 2 hours • Total time: 2 hours
For the zoodles:
- 6-8 medium zucchini
- Pinch of salt
For the sauce:
- 2 cups tomatoes, seeded
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
For the cheese:
- ¾ cups cashews, soaked
- ¾ cup macadamia nuts
- soaked 3Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
For the pesto:
- ½ cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 4 cups basil
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ½tsp salt
- ½cup olive oil
To make the zoodles, use a mandoline to slice each zucchini lengthwise into very thin strips (about 1/16 inch thick). Place them in a colander, toss with a pinch of salt and let sit for at least 20 minutes, until pliable.
For the cheese, place all ingredients in a VitaMix or Blendtec blender and blend on high until smooth, adding a splash of water if necessary (you may need to use the tamper tool). Alternatively, this can be done in a food processor, but it may take a little longer and the texture will be more grainy.
For the sauce, place all ingredients except oregano in a blender and blend until mostly smooth. Stir in the oregano. Taste and adjust the flavors according to your preference.
For the pesto, place the nuts in a food processor and grind them until they begin to form a thick nut butter. Add basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt; process until the basil is finely chopped. Add olive oil and pulse to combine.
To assemble, place a layer of zoodles on the bottom of a small, square baking dish (about 8″ x 8″). Spread a little sauce over them, then top with dollops of nut cheese and pesto. Continue layering the zoodles, sauce, cheese, and pesto until you run out.
Top the final layer of zoodles with some sauce and brazil nut parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately.
*For a fermented cheese, prepare it the day before. Omit the lemon juice and stir in the contents of one probiotic capsule after blending. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Squash, summer, zucchini, includes skin, raw. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169291/nutrients, accessed Jul 11, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Zucchini Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/zucchini.html, accessed Jul 11, 2022.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Tomatoes, orange, raw. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170502/nutrients, accessed Jul 11, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Tomato Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/tomato.html, accessed Jul 11, 2022.
- Pradhan SP, Padhi S, Dash M, Heena, Mittu B, Behera A. Chapter 7 – Carotenoids. Kour J, Nayik GA, editors. Nutraceuticals and Health Care. Academic Press; 2022. 135-157p. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-89779-2.00006-5.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Nuts, macadamia nuts, raw. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170178/nutrients, accessed Jul 12, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Macadamia Nut Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/macadamia-nut.html, accessed Jul 12, 2022.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Basil, fresh. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172232/nutrients, accessed Jul 15, 2022.
- Nutrition and You. Basil Herb Nutrition Facts. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/basil-herb.html, accessed Jul 15, 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.