Ask the Pharmacist: Recipe hacks to make mealtime healthier

Suzy Cohen
There is a big difference between turmeric and curcumin.

This time of year is when families gather and eat a lot of food. And shop! Today’s focus is how to indulge without increasing the bulge! My intention is to give you some recipe tweaks to make your meals healthier.  Here are my best tips.

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A quarter teaspoon of this spice added to your green bean casserole will go virtually unnoticed from a taste perspective, but it adds some anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. It also reduces the buildup of brain plaque according to some studies with mice.

Using these mushrooms in your stuffing adds some biologically active compounds that may protect against cancer and inflammation.

Shiitake mushrooms

Using these mushrooms in your stuffing adds some biologically active compounds that may protect against cancer and inflammation. A 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that regular consumption of these mushrooms resulted in improved immunity, and a reduction in the pro-inflammatory compound C-reactive protein.



Most people know about making cauliflower mash, as a substitute for the high-carb regular mashed potatoes. This also prevents a big blood sugar spike! But what about “cauliflower macaroni and cheese?” I have the recipe posted at my website and it’s awesome for both children and adults.

Coconut water

In my cranberry sauce recipe, I always replace the plain water with a high quality coconut water and it doesn’t alter the flavor at all! Coconut water is hydrating, and it contains compounds that are anti-fungal and antioxidant in nature. It may help if you are prone to kidney stone formation or if you have diabetes. You can substitute coconut water in any recipe that calls for water. 

Tea seed oil

Tea seed comes from the seeds of Camellia synesis. That’s the plant that gives us green tea.  The Tea Seed oil is cold-pressed and very popular in other countries. With a mild, neutral flavor this would be great to substitute for another inferior oil such as vegetable or canola. It has anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Pumpkin seed oil

Add two teaspoons to your pumpkin pie filling before cooking it for a profoundly richer flavor and powerful medicinal benefits. Its rich in vitamin E, zinc, omega fatty acids and is well known to support prostate and breast health.

Dried tart cherries

Instead of cranberries (or in addition to), you can cut some dried tart cherries into your stuffing. These are known to contain natural melatonin which is deeply relaxing. They’ve been studied for their ability to support gout. Tart cherries reduce muscle breakdown and speed up recovery during fitness according to studies. They have virtually no fat or sodium and taste very satisfying and not too sweet.

Almond flour

To get the pain-relieving benefits of almonds, use ground almond flour instead of all-purpose flour for your gravy. If you want to reduce the sodium content commonly found in traditional gravy that starts with chicken broth, just substitute plain water! To avoid compromising flavor, you’ll want to add spices like onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika and fresh rosemary.

A ripe avocado — the new superfood


Instead of mayo, you can use a crushed avocado as a spread. This might be something you do with leftover turkey subs.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit