Friday, September 5, 2014

Healthy ribs...really??

There's no doubt about it.  Ribs are an all-American favorite.  However, if you're healing with foods, you may have given up sugar and pork, which means that ribs--tasty, succulent and slathered in a sweet and spicy sauce-- may be a food you're wishing you could still eat.

Of course, we're not advocating that anyone eat ribs frequently.  A few times a year is probably as often as anyone needs to eat them.  However, it's important to balance nutritional healing with real life.  For a summer kid sleep-out, pool parties, family BBQs, or a neighborhood block party it is realistic to think you might get a request for ribs.

Is there anything we can do to make this summer BBQ a tasty and satisfying meal that is if not healing at least not anti-healing?  Let's take a look at the pork aspect first...

Unlike beef, pork is not usually grass fed.  Pigs are rooters, not grazers, which makes them difficult to manage on pasture, so you're not likely to find completely "grass-fed pork".  Some small family farms are pasturing pork but even these tend to supplement the pig's diets with "vegetarian feed".   So unless you are lucky enough to have a fantastic local source, grass fed pork is probably out.

 What about organic pork?  Even organic pork is pretty hard to find.  Whole Foods carries three organic pork products - chops, spare ribs and a bone-in roast.  However, they receive deliveries just once a week.  Once they sell through, they're gone, which means they are frequently out-of-stock on organic pork.  If you are able to plan ahead, you can call and reserve them. Otherwise, you'll just have to hope to get lucky.

Here's a less desirable option, although much preferred to buying regular processed pork.  Safeway* is now carrying hormone and antibiotic free pork in their Open Nature brand.  Of course, this is not as good as organic, but hormone and antibiotic free are two very important qualities when buying and eating pork.

Many of us are working to keep our gut flora as healthy as possible and that means eating antibiotic-free meats and poultry.  The antibiotics in "regular" meats and poultry kill off many of the good bacterias normally found in a healthy digestive system.  These bacterias not only help us to digest our foods properly, but they maintain healthy metabolism levels and boost up our immune system as well.  It's very difficult to "heal with foods" when we are actively assaulting and killing off some of the greatest boosters to our immune system.

As far as added hormones in meats go, we all have plenty of hormones of our own to deal with, no extras needed, thank you very much!  There are studies suggesting that consuming added hormones from meats may lower fertility and cause cancer.

Having said that, if you can get access to organic or pasture raised pork, do it, regardless the cost. It's worth it.  The animals live far superior lives and the nutritional value of the pork is so much higher.  Pork that is allowed to forage and roam outdoors has much higher omega-3 and vitamin D levels. In fact, before pork became a factory product, lard was the primary source of vitamin D in the American diet.

So that deals with one of the two objections to pork ribs, the pork.  Now on to the sugar.  Is it possible to make delicious sweet-tasting ribs without sugar?  We thought it would be interesting to take one of the most popular rib recipes in America, the Kansas City Style Pork Ribs recipe from Patrick and Gina Neely on and see if it could be adapted for sugar-free healthy eating.  Our adaptation turned out great and we don't think anyone is going to notice the missing sugar.  We used this "rub" on the Open Nature ribs and they were absolutely delicious.  Here's the recipe:

Sugar-Free Pork Ribs  (Allow 27 hours for best taste)

3 T Coconut Secret Coconut Nectar (available at Whole Foods and health food stores)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 pinch ground red pepper
1/2 t Valle del Sol chilli pepper (from Whole Foods)
1/2 t thyme
1 t paprika
1 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt

Combine the ingredients to make a paste and rub over the entire rack of ribs.  Put them in a plastic container to sit in the fridge for 24 hours (You can get away with 6 hours of marinating, but they are better the longer you let them wait.)  Heat the oven to 425 degrees, put the ribs in a roasting pan and wrap them tightly with foil.  Allow the ribs to bake slowly for at least 3 hours.  Remove the ribs from the oven and serve.  Or, if you wish, you can put them for a short period on the BBQ to add extra smoky flavor.

We loved this recipe as is and did not feel it necessary to use a BBQ sauce.  The ribs were sweet and juicy without a sauce.  However, if you prefer to add a BBQ sauce, we've adapted the Neely's Kansas City BBQ Sauce to be sugar-free:

Kansas City Barbeque Sauce

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cups water
1 cup (2 6-ounce cans) organic tomato paste (make sure the tomato paste you choose is sugar free--Costco makes a good organic tomato paste and the only ingredient is tomatoes.  I buy it by the case.)
1/3 cup Coconut Nectar from Coconut Secret*
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar or Coconut Vinegar from Coconut Secret
2 T blackstrap molasses**
1/2 t red pepper
1/4 t smoked paprika
1 t sea salt
1 t ground black pepper

Put the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and add the chopped onion.  Cook until translucent and add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so.

As you can see in the photo above, I've stored mine in canning jars.  However, I did not go through the canning process.  I'll keep my jars of BBQ sauce in the fridge and use them up quickly.  If you are a canner, you could certainly make up a large batch and can it for future use.

*EatThriveHeal is in no way supported by Safeway, Whole Foods, or any other products or markets.  We feel that ease in our cooking lives is essential, which is why we often share helpful information about specific products, brands or stores.

**Molasses is a sugar cane product  and we don't recommend using a lot of it frequently.  However, 2 tablespoons is a very small amount for this recipe and it adds a lot of essential BBQ flavor to the finished taste.

Note: Many BBQ sauces use liquid smoke.  Liquid Smoke is popularly considered to be extremely carcinogenic, however, the manufacturing process is reducing some of that now.  Although we would in no way call liquid smoke a "healthy" ingredient, keeping your consumption of it down to a few teaspoons a year is probably safe enough.  Liquid smoke is made from the condensed liquid steam from burning wood chips.  It is the same carcinogenic substance that you get from eating BBQ'd food.  Also, liquid smoke is commonly used in smoked cheeses and meats (such as Hickory smoked bacon) to add smokey flavor.

No comments:

Post a Comment