Raw Thai Collard Wraps for Vibrancy and Health

I feel good, I knew that I would, I feel good, I knew that would now. So good! So good, because I got you!" This song describes exactly how I feel today...GOOD!

What a morning this Saturday turns out to be. I wake up refreshed, energetic, and alive. The weekend is here with two days where my biochemistry textbook remains closed, and out of service. This last week my head felt full of cotton, and my body heavy with inactivity. I can see it my classmates’ eyes, as well as in my professor, everyone is feeling tiresome and overworked. Week 7 down, and week 8 left to go. Bring it on!

With such an information overload during the week, and a test every Friday, the weekends have a whole new meaning to me. They are beautiful. Nothing can be over or under planned. A simple weekend, is just as great as one filled with parties, adventures, and friends. This weekend greets me with a quiet peace, and sunrays rays peak through my window. I breathe in and I breathe out, at ease and excited to start this beautiful day.

Since today I crave the sense of purity, I am inspired to share a meal with ingredients that shine in their purest forms. Raw food is cleansing and cooling. If one is overworked, overheated, anxious, nervous, or stressed, eating raw foods can bring a sense of clarity. Especially on warm sunny days when all you crave anyways is something fresh and bursting with color. The high dose of unaltered vitamins, minerals, and oils available in raw foods, is a great way to cleanse and boost your body and soul.

Raw collard wraps, are a great way to make an easy, beautiful meal. Since I love the combinations of Thai spices and ingredients, I decided to venture down the path of East Asian cooking.

I don’t believe that collard greens are traditional Asian vegetables, but here we have heard of them often in southern cooking, smothered in butter and cream. Collard leaves are wonderful. Not only are they a versatile vegetable, where one can use them creatively in many ways, but also they are overlooked superstars. Perhaps you have heard that cabbage and broccoli are great against cancer due to high amounts of sulfur compounds. Well, so is the collard leaf. It has four main compounds that are part of the glucosinolate family, which are easily converted to isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates help support the body in detox and immune system functions, as well as working against inflammation. Collard greens are most highly noted with their ability to support the body in the prevention of bladder, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

However, what is the most exciting news for me is the ability of collard greens, as well as other cruciferous vegetables, to bring a healthy ratio of progesterone and estrogen in the human body. Cruciferous vegetables have a compound called diindolylmethane, or DIM. This phytochemical is able to modify the metabolism of estrogen, by blocking estrogen receptors. This enables the body to naturally balance its progesterone and estrogen levels. High estrogen levels are associated with breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, as well as infertility. DIM not only inhibits “bad” estrogen from estrogen receptors, but it also promotes the production of beneficial estrogen.

So, I would say, eat cruciferous vegetables often! In today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by pesticides and consume high fat diets. These both promote elevated  “bad” estrogen exposure. Men and women alike can support healthy aging, by eating a whole foods diet, and adding collards, cabbage, and broccoli, more often as mainstay vegetables.

These wraps are great as appetizers or can be the main course of a meal. My simple papaya and lime salad would be a great addition to these delicious wraps. 

Raw Thai Collard Wraps
Makes 4 Wraps
For the wraps:
4 collard leaves
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 ripe mango, thinly sliced
1 avocado
8 basil leaves
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp organic seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil, organic cold pressed
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp tamari
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 thai chili pepper (or any spicy chili pepper)

1.  First start by preparing the dressing. This allows the flavors to infuse while you prepare everything else. You can make this dressing ahead of time for more flavor. 
2.  In order to properly crush the garlic cloves, press down firmly with the side of a large knife. This crushes them. I place the side of the knife on top of the garlic and with the palm of my right hand I push my weight on top of the clove. This allows the juices to flow out without the chunks of garlic.
3.  Finely chop the 1/2 chili pepper and put in a glass jar with the crushed garlic cloves. 
4.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow the dressing to infuse at least a half an hour prior to serving. 
5.  Then prepare the collard leaves. Chop off the stem, and carefully with a sharp paring knife shave down the thick stem of the collard. Try to cut it down as flat as possible without cutting into the leaves. 
2.  Once your "wraps" are ready, place the cucumber down first in the middle, then top with the shredded carrot and cabbage. Spoon two teaspoons of the dressing on top.
7.  Then follow with slices of mango, avocado, and finally basil. Sprinkle with a bit of chopped peanuts.
8. To properly fold the collard wraps, begin by folding the bottom edge (where the stem used to be), up and over the veggies. Then fold in both sides. Follow by rolling the wrap up. Some may want to unroll, if the filling is not heavy enough. If need be, pierce them shut with a toothpick. Usually, I do not have this problem. 
9.  As a garnish, add any left over chopped peanuts to the remaining dressing. Serve the wraps with additional dressing on the side. 

Optional: If you want them to be more hearty, add quinoa or amaranth. These two grains are complete  vegetarian protein sources, containing lysine, which most grains lack.

Zeligs, M. Safer Estrogen with Phytonutrition
World’s Healthiest Foods: Collard Greens

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