National Hispanic Heritage Month, the period each year from mid-September to Mid-October celebrates Hispanic culture and heritage, and recognizes Hispanic Americans’ many contributions to the U.S. But with such a deep, rich history spanning many countries and continents, where do you start? A great choice is Hispanic Cuisine, which we focus on first for 2013. #nationalhispanicheritage month #hispaniccuisine
In the United States, Mexicans are the largest Hispanic sub-group so it’s natural for many Americans to equate Mexican and Hispanic cuisine says Lorena Drago, a registered dietician with Hispanic Foodways, author of Beyond Rice and Beans: The Caribbean Guide to Eating Well with Diabetes, and a regular guest on New York’s “Diálogo con Glenis,” a live Spanish community cable show where she discusses nutrition. She explains, “Mexican cuisine is well known for using an array of chilies. Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Capsaicin is a common ingredient in arthritis relief medications. Chili peppers also ease congestion, as anyone who has eaten chili peppers can attest!” Other studies report that capsaicin may play a role in fighting fat, pain, and blood pressure. #mexicanfood #mexicancuisine
As the Health Power Population Tables for Hispanics show, the U.S. is also home to many Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans who all contribute to the diversity of the Latino palate. Lorena says, “These cultures brought root vegetables with them like cassava, plantains, and yams which are part of a highly seasoned cuisine that’s not too spicy. Try variations of plantain dishes such as mangu; a breakfast made of boiled, mashed green plantains seasoned with onions.” #puertoricanfood #dominicanfood
South America also contributes to Hispanic cuisine and heritage. Says Lorena, “quinoa and amaranth are delicious, nutritious, gluten-free whole grains from South America. “Con arepas, a round patty made of corn, can substitute for bread and are popular in Colombia and Venezuela”. #quinoa #amaranth
Because many Hispanic foods are plant based, they are healthy and affordable. In addition to the examples above, beans and rice are an inexpensive, versatile option. Beans can be the main ingredient in soups that include cilantro, peppers, onions, and tomatoes. You can make rice with coconut milk seasoned with salt and spices. Fish is also often prepared with coconut milk. Coconut products, however, should not be used too often because they are high in fat and calories. Many of the spices used in Hispanic cooking–cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, and chilies–have beneficial antioxidant qualities. #antioxidant
Enjoy el sabor Latino!