Vegan-ish: A Physician’s Journey to More Plant-Based Meals: BBQ Pulled “Pork”
I am Dr. Monique, Board-certified Family Physician and Founder of Physician in the Kitchen. With my NEW best-selling cookbook, Doc Fix My Plate! The Physician In The Kitchen’s Prescriptions For Your Healthy Meal Makeover, my other best-selling book, MealMasters: Your Simple Guide to Modern Day Meal Planning, my online course, Vegan-ish: How To Plant-Base Your Pantry and online cooking classes, I help busy households enjoy healthy plant-based eating without impacting their hectic schedules..
Hello MealMasters! People choose to adopt vegan or other lifestyles for a variety of reasons, and they are usually related to improving their health. They may want to eliminate the need for medications to treat their cholesterol or high blood sugar, or maybe they want to lose a few pounds to reach an ideal or preferred weight. By cutting out animal protein, you may notice an improvement in chronic conditions such as joint pain or kidney disease. You may also decrease your risk of developing certain types of cancer. For me, in addition to the known health benefits of a plant-based diet, I truly enjoy experimenting and testing recipes featuring vegetables or other plant-based foods. I also get to create in my “lab” while using my many kitchen gadgets and appliances. This year I am chronicling my journey toward more plant-based meals, and I am sharing with my readers my favorite foods, along with tips and tricks I have discovered along the way.
Today I am continuing my series, Dr. Monique’s Favorite Food ABCs. The foods that are on this list are here because of both their contributions to mouth-watering dishes as well their health benefits. So far we have discussed the following:
- A for avocado
- B for beans
- C for cilantro
- D for dairy replacements
- E is for egg substitutes
- F for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
- G for ginger and garlic
- H for herbs
- I for Indian Spices
So that brings us to the letter J. and the star for today’s blog is jackfruit, specifically the ready-to-eat, canned variety. Jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world, and can weigh up to 100 pounds! They are indigenous to South India and are related to figs and mulberries. Due to their size and sticky quality, fresh jackfruit can be a bit intimidating to cut up and prepare, so I prefer to use the canned version instead. Fresh jackfruit has a subtle sweet, fruity flavor, similar to apples, bananas, pineapples, and mango. It has been said it tastes similar to Juicy Fruit gum.
In all honesty, the first time I tasted canned jackfruit I did not like it. It was in a BBQ recipe that was quite bland, and I wasn’t crazy about the texture. But I had to take my own advice. I am always encouraging my followers to try new things (#tryitTuesday or #wonderWednesday) or to try old favorites in different ways. So I decided to give jackfruit another try, just made my way. And guess what? I loved it! I have used it in “crab” cakes, curry, and of course “pulled pork” recipes. It can also be used as a substitute for pulled chicken. Another plus is that canned jackfruit is relatively inexpensive, costing about $2 per can. Some stores stock it in the frozen section.
Canned jackfruit has a somewhat plain taste, which means that you can season it however you like. Curry, BBQ, creole seasoning, whatever you prefer. They all work because it is a blank slate on which you can create whatever you choose. You can even play with the texture and size of it. When I use it in my faux crab cakes, I place it in my food processor and pulse just a few times. It then looks just like lump crab meat. When I use it as a stand-in for pulled pork, I like to bake it first for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. By drying it out this way, it makes the flesh more “meaty”, and more pork-like in texture.
Nutrition-wise, jackfruit really packs a punch. It is rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Vitamin A is important for eye health, and Vitamin C helps protect the skin from harmful effects from the sun. It also has a lot of B vitamins. Jackfruit contains minerals such as potassium and magnesium which are important for bone, muscle, and nerve health. In fact, adequate potassium intake can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk for stroke and heart attack. Jackfruit also provides a good amount of protein for a fruit, approximately 3 grams per cup.
Like any other fruit, jackfruit has plenty of phytonutrients, which are beneficial chemicals made by plants. These phytonutrients may help prevent diseases such as cancer, macular degeneration of the eye, and heart disease. Jackfruit may also help diabetics control their blood sugars. Since jackfruit is actually absorbed and processed by the body slower than other fruits, diabetics will not see their blood sugars go up as high. This is due to its low glycemic index (GI), which is a number on a scale of how high your blood sugar goes up after you eat something containing carbohydrates. Foods with a low GI do not cause the blood sugar to rise too high too quickly after being eaten, typically within 2 hours. Diabetics who eat a lot of jackfruit should watch their blood sugars carefully. If they are on medication, it is possible that their doctor may need to decrease the doses to prevent their levels from dropping too low from the combination.
Below is my recipe for BBQ Pulled “Pork” with Homemade BBQ Sauce. It is super easy to make from ingredients you likely have at home. Of course, it is much healthier than what you buy in the store (read: high fructose corn syrup) and can be tweaked however you like. Spicier? Add ground cayenne pepper or fresh jalapeno or habanero peppers. Smokier? Add more smoked paprika and liquid smoke. Tangier? Add more vinegar. If you make it please be sure to tag @physicianinthekitchen on the ‘Gram when you do!
See you in the kitchen!
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