Spiced Quinoa Patties and a Beet Berry Smoothie

Quinoa and kale patties and a beet berry smoothie.

For all my devoted followers I am proud to announce that I am launching my private practice, Happy Belly Nutrition, dedicated to integrative and functional nutrition counseling!
I am so excited for this new chapter in my nutrition career. I hope to help make many positive changes in my patients' health and overall well-being. With that being said if you are interested in what I have to offer go check out my website under the “Work with Selva” tab. And for now I just want to thank my close family and friends for supporting me in making this dream come true, and I want to thank all of my readers, YOU, for your enthusiasm and dedication.

Today’s topic is a big one. One that impacts many women across the nation and worldwide. Oral Contraceptives. Two of my dear friends had many questions regarding the nutritional consequences of oral contraceptives, so I dug deep and here is what I have found.

Research has found that oral contraceptives have an impact on the metabolism of certain vitamins and minerals. If the diet is poor in the following vitamins and minerals and a woman is taking oral contraceptives, nutrient deficiencies can develop--especially if taken long term.  This is very important as these nutrient deficiencies may impact overall health significantly.

Magnesium plays a vital role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including energy production and DNA synthesis. Poor magnesium intake is often associated with muscle spasms, anxiety, migraines, and much more.  In women taking oral contraceptives, magnesium levels are reduced significantly. Interestingly, due to magnesium depleted soils, our food also contains less magnesium than in previous decades. Therefore, women taking the birth control pills need to be more aware of getting adequate magnesium in their diet, or perhaps even supplement with a chelated form such as magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate (1-3).

These very important trace minerals are significantly reduced in women taking oral contraceptives. Both of these trace minerals act as important co-factors in enzymatic action throughout the body. Zinc and selenium are both vital for optimal thyroid function. Zinc also plays an important role in wound healing, immunity, and DNA synthesis. Selenium on the other hand is vital in supporting our innate detoxification and antioxidant capabilities aiding in reducing inflammation in the body (1-3).

Folate, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are all impacted by oral contraceptive use. Nutrient deficiencies in any or all of these B vitamins can have many consequences moving forward. Most B vitamins do not store well (except B12) as they are water soluble, therefore daily changes in dietary patterns, and consequential poor intake, can quickly cause nutrient deficiencies. Studies have found that women taking oral contraceptives that supplemented with B2 had significantly decreased frequency, intensity, and duration of headaches. A recent large-scale study found that 75% of women taking oral contraceptives had significantly reduced B6, which can impact protein and carbohydrate metabolism and neurotransmitter production such as serotonin. Furthermore, researchers speculate that the low B6 many be independently associated with the increased risk of arterial and venous thromboembolisms found in oral contraceptive users. Yikes! Finally, deficiencies in folate and B12 can have many negative implications including the most commonly cited neural tube defects. However, low folate status itself can impair detoxification capabilities---low folate may cause an increased toxicity load in the body. Supplementing with bioactive vitamin B6 (P5P) and methylated folate and B12 may be beneficial to replete stores. B12 supplementation is especially important for individuals on a vegan diet (1-3).

RDA for females 14+
Excellent Food Sources
Cooking: relatively stable in plant foods unless boiled then 10-30% loss.
310-360 mg/day

Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup = 190mg), Dark leafy greens (1 cup = 150g), Quinoa (3/4 cup = 118g) Black beans (1 cup = 120g), Cashews & sunflower seeds (1/4 cup = 115g)

Cooking: relatively stable in both animal and plant foods with 10-20% loss if plant foods are boiled, sprouting improves bioavailability.
8-9 mg/day
Oysters (6 each = 33mg), Grass-fed Beef/lamb (4 oz fillet = 4 mg), Wheat germ (1 oz = 5mg), Spinach (1 cup cooked = 1.37mg), Asparagus (1 cup = 1mg)

Cooking: pretty stable in cooking of animal foods, but processed grains lose substantial amounts.
55 mcg/day
Brazil Nuts (2 each =155mcg), Halibut (3 oz = 47mcg), Grass-fed liver (3 oz = 28 mcg), Cottage cheese (1 cup = 20mcg), Egg (1 each = 15 mcg), Whole grains (1 cup cooked = 13 mcg)

Cooking: substantial loss in canned and/or processed foods.
400 mcg/day

Lentils (1 cup = 358 mcg), Grass-fed Beef liver (3 oz = 215mcg), Spinach (1/2 cup cooked = 131 mcg), Black-eyed peas (1/2 cup boiled = 105 mcg), Asparagus (4 spears = 89 mcg), Brussel sprouts (1/2 cup cooked = 78 mcg), Avocado (1/2 cup sliced, 59 mcg)
Vitamin B2
Cooking: light damages B2, but stable to heat and refrigeration.
1-1.1 mg/day

Grass-fed Cheese (1 oz = .39mg), Almonds (1 oz = .28mg), Grass-fed Beef & Lamb ( 3oz steak = .73mg), Wild Salmon (3oz =.45mg), Egg ( 1 each = .26mg), Mushrooms (1 cup sliced = .35mg), Leafy greens (1 cup = .42mg)

Vitamin B6
Cooking: prolonged exposure to heat can degrade B6 in most foods.
1.2-1.5 mg/day

Chickpeas (1 cup = 1.1mg), Liver (3oz = .9mg), Wild Salmon (3oz = .6), Sweet Potato (1 cup =.57mg), Banana (1 med = .43), Leafy greens (1 cup = .20 mg)

Vitamin B12
Cooking: boiling foods may reduce up to 50%.
2.4 mcg/day

Clams (3 oz =84.1mcg), Grass-fed Liver (3oz =70.7mcg), Salmon ( 3oz = 4.8 mcg), Grass-fed Beef (3 oz = 1.4 mcg) Milk (1 cup = 1.2 mcg), Yogurt (0.9mcg), Egg (1 each, 0.6 mcg)

Reference: (4-6)

Quinoa and kale patties and a beet berry smoothie.

Although one can supplement to help replete deficiencies, I highly recommend that dietary choices need to follow as well. Aim to add the foods found in the “Excellent Food Sources” category to a whole foods diet to best support your overall health while taking oral contraceptives. Since oral contraceptives have shown to reduce the above mentioned vitamins and minerals, the RDA may actually be higher for women taking oral contraceptives than for the general healthy female. Remember food is fuel and food is medicine. Opting for nutrient dense whole foods will help your body function optimally.

To get you started here are two recipes which taste wonderfully together! The Spiced Quinoa and Kale patties are a great recipe to make on the weekend and have for the remainder of the week. They are easy to reheat in the microwave and even taste good cold. I love to add them to a salad, or topped with cooked greens and a fried egg for breakfast. Sometimes I eat a single patty as a quick snack. Plus the Berry Beet Smoothie just tastes so good that I have a glass or two almost every day—my body CRAVES it. So just for a little nutritional breakdown 2 patties and 1 serving of the smoothie will get you at least 30% if not more of each of the above mentioned nutrients. Isn’t tasty food just great??! I think so! 

Spiced Quinoa & Kale Patties
Makes about 10 patties

1 cup dry quinoa (I used ½ red and ½ white)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 2/3 cups water
¾ cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika (smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili flakes
½ teaspoon sea salt
Fresh ground pepper—don't be shy
2 cups packed finely chopped curly kale (about 6 leaves)
1/3 cup feta, crumbled
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
4 eggs, lightly beaten


Add the dry quinoa, sea salt and water into a medium saucepan. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling turn off heat, LEAVE LID ON, and let pot rest on hot burner. Leave the pot undisturbed for 1 hour. Note: this can be done ahead of time—day old quinoa works fine too.

After the quinoa has sat for an hour, remove the lid, and pour quinoa into a large bowl, stir around to cool. Add the rolled oats, paprika, garlic powder, chili flakes, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Stir around to mix evenly. Mix in the finely chopped kale (curly works best), both the feta and parmesan. Stir to mix evenly.

Then pour in the slightly beaten eggs. Mix with your hands, kneading the mixture until evenly coated and sticking together. Press the mixture into an even mass in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a baking pan with extra virgin olive oil. Make 10 patties and place onto the sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until slightly crispy, flip, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in a sealable container in the refrigerator. 

Note: these can easily be reheated in the microwave or in a skillet over medium low heat with a little olive oil or ghee.

Dairy Free adaptation: swap the cheese for finely chopped olives.

Beet Berry Blast Smoothie
Serves 3-4

1 medium red beet, skin peeled, and diced
2 inches ginger root, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup red grapes
Optional: 2 teaspoons spirulina or chlorella
1 cup water
8-10 ice cubes

Add the beet, ginger, blueberries, grapes, spirulina (optional) and water into a high speed blender (vitamin or blendtec) and blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes, blend, and serve.

Optional: Adding spirulina or chlorella will increase the nutrient density of this smoothie...you can even just stir in a little bit afterwards to try it out first. 


1. Palmery M, Saraceno A, Vairelli A, et al. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2013;17: 1804-1813.
World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com. Accessed August 17, 2015.
2. Dante G, Vaiarelli A, Facchinetti F. Vitamin and mineral needs during the oral contraceptive therapy: a systematic review. Int J Reprod Contracept Obstet Gynecol. 2014;3(1): 1-10.
3. Pronsky ZM, Crowe SR JP. Food Medication Interactions 17th Edition. Birchrunville, PA: Food-Medication Interactions; 2012.
4. National Institute of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/. Accessed August 17, 2015.
5. USDA. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins . http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Tables/RDA_AI_vitamins_elements.pdf. Accessed August 17, 2015.
6. World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com. Accessed August 17, 2015.

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