I love Ukrainian food. It reminds me of my childhood. Ukrainian cuisine is fascinating: it developed over centuries and was influenced by the history of the country. Having been occupied by Poland, Austria and Russia, many dishes are inspired by these periods in the country’s history. Even though many dishes have been adapted from other countries over the years, Ukrainian food is unique in preparation methods. Ukrainian cuisine mainly stems from peasant dishes and is centered around regional grains and vegetables. Many of the ingredients used in Ukrainian cooking are secretly superfoods. Here are my top five favorite ingredients!
Beets are one of the most popular ingredients in Ukrainian cuisine. They are also one of my favorite vegetables (coincidence?). Beets are a delicious source of complex carbohydrates. They are also high in nutrients such as folate, iron and vitamin B6. And they can even help lower blood pressure, if eaten regularly! Beets have a high concentration of nitrates. When eaten, dietary nitrates are converted to nitric oxide. This compound helps dilate blood vessels and causes blood pressure to drop.
My favorite herb! It’s very popular in Ukrainian cuisine: you will find it in almost any dish. Besides being a source of vitamin A and C, dill has anti-bacterial properties similar to garlic or ginger. Additionally, dill is a carminative, which means it helps to relieve gas. Dill is amazing for digestion in general: it increases absorption of nutrients, and because it has anti-bacterial properties, it can be helpful for stomach issues.
An ancient grain that is becoming more popular in the US, buckwheat has been used Ukraine for centuries. Buckwheat is naturally gluten-free and low in calories but high in protein. With a low glycemic index and high fiber content, it’s a great source of energy. Buckwheat is a great complex carb for diabetics, as the nutrients will be absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly than some other carbs. This will prevent sugar spikes and help regulate blood-sugar levels throughout the day. And if that’s not enough reason to add it to your diet, buckwheat also has many compounds, such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and folate that are beneficial for skin and hair health.
Cabbage is truly a secret superstar. It’s low in calories, packed with nutrients, and easily accessible. Cabbage is high in vitamins C and K and. It also contains powerful antioxidants, like sulforaphane or kaempferol that have been proven to reduce inflammation. Cabbage is full of insoluble fiber, which keeps the gut flora healthy and promotes regular bowel movements.
Pickled (aka. Fermented) Foods
Pickled foods are popular in Ukrainian cuisine, mostly due to geographic conditions: there used to be limited access to fresh produce during the winter. So, people started preserving foods for the winter and today, even though access to food is easier year-round, these foods are still an essential part of many dishes. Fermented foods are packed with probiotics. Probiotics are amazing for gut health and have many other benefits such as reducing cardiovascular risk and promoting skin health!