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Chanukah Guacamole and Chile Rellenos

Jacob Schor ND FABNO

November 25, 2009

I’m updating our Chanukah menu this year.  Chanukah starts at sundown, Friday, December 11 and runs for eight nights.  The American custom is to make latkes, fried potato pancakes, and serve them with sour cream and applesauce.

Instead of serving potato latkes every night, this year I’m going to make some Chile Rellenos.

They’ll go fine with the sour cream. After all, the tradition is to serve oily fried food to celebrate this holiday.  No where is it written, ‘Thou Shall Eat Latkes.’  They don’t fry latkes in Israel, instead they eat jelly doughnuts to celebrate.  So it makes sense that if you live in Colorado, you should fry chilies.

These semi-heretical thoughts stem from an article I read about avocados published in 2007 in the Archivos de Cardiología de México.  That would be the Archives of Mexican Cardiology.  In it, Méndez and Hernández reported that after feeding 15 rats 5 grams of avocado daily for 5 weeks, the rats’ blood levels of triglycerides fell an average of 27% while their HDL rose 17% compared to a control group of rats who got no avocado.  


A lot of people who would be happy to see changes like that in their own numbers.  Granted these were rats and not people but those are still impressive numbers.  Five grams may not sound like much avocado but if you figure a person weighs a hundred times as much as a rat, that’s actually about a pound of avocado per day; that’s one big bowl of guacamole.

This isn’t the only thing interesting about avocadoes.  A 2003 study puts avocado oil on par with olive oil as far as its tendency to not cause atherosclerosis. Avocado may also protect against cerebral vascular disease, at least in rats.  Avocado had a protective effect in a rat experiment designed to induce ischemic damage in a rat’s hippocampus.    And as mentioned in prior newsletters, the big thing going for avocados these days is their use in treating osteoarthritis.  

If my calculations are right, the ‘Miracle of Chanukah’ in which the oil burned longer than predicted occurred on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in the year 165 BCE.  That would make this the 2,164 anniversary. Technically, the Temple was rededicated on the 25th but it probably took a few days for people to notice that the oil wasn’t running out as expected.  This miracle might be categorized as relatively subtle, not like the parting the Red Sea.

Back to latkes.

Potatoes have fallen out of fashion in recent years.  Obviously potatoes are one of those simple carbohydrates that everyone warns us against eating these days.  Data from the Whitehall Study published in August 2009, suggest that diets high in fried potatoes can double heart disease risk.   Not all the news is bad. A French study from 2008 tells us that feeding rats potatoes lowered their cholesterol and triglycerides.  Well it did so in a study in which the control group of rats ate only sugar water. An earlier study also showed potatoes lowered cholesterol levels in, ‘Cholesterol-fed rats.’ These studies might not be such good news after all.

Chili peppers are an ingredient in traditional Mayan medicines and published studies tell us they have an antibacterial effect. The really hot peppers, cayenne, of course are being used in all sorts of pain relief topical formulas.  At least one variety of sweet pepper, the Anastasia Red, has use in cancer therapy both triggering apoptosis (cell suicide) in tumors and reversing multi-drug-resistance.

The chili relleno, literally "stuffed chili," originated in the city of Puebla. It is supposed to be made with a roasted fresh poblano pepper (the poblano pepper is named after the city of Puebla) stuffed with cheese, covered in batter and fried.  No one should pretend that these are healthy but keep in mind we are talking about substituting them for fried potatoes.  Perhaps they could be judged the lesser of two evils?

Granted, that after two decades living in Colorado, this doesn’t seem all that outrageous. But for Chanukah?  How does one make a Jewish Chile Relleno?  Simple enough, replace a bit of the flour with matzo meal.  A pinch.

There are plenty of recipes online.  Steve Rogers offers excellent instructions.


or you can view various people making them on YouTube:




[this one is interesting as the fellow peels the chiles with a carrot peeler rather than roasting them…. Curious]


No one in these videos seems to make them quite right, so let me write out a simple recipe:

Stuff the chilies with cheese as in all the proceeding recipes.  Lay out the stuffed peppers on a cookie pan heavily dusted with flour, dust the tops of the peppers with more flour.  If you don’t the batter won’t stick.

It’s the batter that counts:  for every 2-3 chilies use one egg.  Separate the eggs.  To the yolks, add 1 Tb of flour and 1 Tb of water per egg, more or less.  (and a pinch of matzo meal) And a bit of salt.  One wants the consistency of this egg, flour and liquid to be close to cake batter.  This is where people get creative, using beer instead of water, adding seasoning to the batter and the like.

Whip the egg whites till stiff and then fold them in. My suggestion to use matzo meal instead of flour was just that, a suggestion, nothing that I’ve ever tried.  Dip the chilies in the batter one at a time and fry them in hot oil, 350.

These should be served with a sauce of some sorts.  If you are really going to try this at home, follow one of the sauce instructions on those YouTube recipes.

I’ve grown weary of roasting and peeling peppers and often cheat, buying Hatch’s Whole  peeled peppers in a can..


Past Chanukah Newsletters:

Chanukah 2006: http://denvernaturopathic.com/news/chanukah.html

Applesauce: http://denvernaturopathic.com/news/applesauce.html



Arch Cardiol Mex. 2007 Jan-Mar;77(1):17-24.

[High-density lipoproteins (HDL) size and composition are modified in the rat by a diet supplemented with "Hass" avocado (Persea americana Miller)]

[Article in Spanish]

Pérez Méndez O, García Hernández L.

Departamento de Fisiología, INCICH. opmendez@yahoo.com

PURPOSE: To determine the effects of dietary avocado on HDL structure and their associated enzyme, paraoxonase 1 (PON1). METHODS: Fifteen Wistar male rats received avocado as part of their daily meal (5 g by 17.5 g chow diet), keeping the caloric intake similar to the control group (n=15) that received their usual chow diet. After 5 weeks, HDL were isolated by sequential ultracentrifugation and their size and chemical composition were analyzed. PON1 was determined in serum spectrophotometrically using phenylacetate as substrate. RESULTS: Rats that received avocado had about 27% lower triglycerides plasma levels whereas their HDL-cholesterol was 17% higher as compared to control group. The mean HDL Stokes diameter was significantly lower in avocado group (11.71 +/- 0.8 vs. 12.27 +/- 0.26 nm, in control group, p < 0.05). The HDL size decrease was associated to a lower content of protein, particularly of apo Al, with a concomitant higher proportion of phospholipids in HDL isolated from avocado group. HDL structural modifications induced by avocado were not related to modifications of LCAT and PLTP activities, but occurred in parallel with higher serum levels of PON1 activity when compared to the controls (57.4 +/- 8.9 vs. 43.0 +/- 5.6 micromol/min/mL serum, p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The inclusion of avocado in the diet decreased plasma triglycerides, increased HDL-cholesterol plasma levels and modified HDL structure. The latter effect may enhance the antiatherogenic properties of HDL since PON1 activity also increased as a consequence of avocado.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Feb;22(1):52-5.

Cholesterol vehicle in experimental atherosclerosis 24: avocado oil.

Kritchevsky D, Tepper SA, Wright S, Czarnecki SK, Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ.

The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA. kritchevsky@mail.wistar.upenn.edu

OBJECTIVE: To determine atherogenicity of avocado oil relative to saturated (coconut oil), monounsaturated (olive oil) and polyunsaturated (corn oil) fats. METHODS: New Zealand White rabbits were fed a semipurified diet containing 0.2% cholesterol and 14% fat for 90 days. They were then necropsied and severity of atherosclerosis was determined visually. RESULTS: Coconut oil was the most atherogenic fat. Corn oil was only slightly less atherogenic than either olive or avocado oils. Percentage of serum HDL cholesterol was highest in the rabbits fed the two monounsaturated fats. CONCLUSION: Avocado oil is of the same order of atherogenicity as corn oil and olive oil.

Arch Med Res. 2007 Jul;38(5):489-94. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

Oral administration of avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) reduces ischemic damage in the rat hippocampus.

Yaman M, Eser O, Cosar M, Bas O, Sahin O, Mollaoglu H, Fidan H, Songur A.

Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Kocatepe University, Afyonkarahisar, Turkey. yaman@aku.edu.tr

BACKGROUND: The beneficial effects of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) are known as an antiarthritic agent. This experimental study presents the effects of ASU on oxidant/antioxidant systems and the number of apoptotic neurons of hippocampal formation after ischemia and reperfusion. METHODS: Eighteen rats were divided into three equal groups: group I rats were used as controls; group II rats were fed with standard diet and group III rats were fed with standard diet plus ASU pills for 10 days. One day after electrocauterization of bilateral vertebral arteries for groups II and III, bilateral common carotid arteries were occluded for 30 min and then reperfused for 30 min. After these procedures, rats of all groups were sacrificed. The levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and nitric oxide (NO) and activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) were measured in the left hippocampus. The number of apoptotic neurons was counted by Tunel method in histological samples of right hippocampus. RESULTS: MDA and NO levels increased in group II compared with group I rats (p = 0.002, p = 0.015). In group III, MDA and NO levels decreased as compared to group II (p = 0.041, p = 0.002). SOD and CAT activities increased in group III as compared to group II rats (p = 0.002, p = 0.002). The number of apoptotic neurons was lower in group III as compared to group II rats. CONCLUSIONS: The present findings suggest that ASU could decrease oxidative stress and apoptotic changes in ischemic rat hippocampus. Dietary supplementation of ASU may be beneficial to prevent or ameliorate ischemic cerebral vascular disease.

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008 Apr;16(4):399-408. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

Symptomatic efficacy of avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) in osteoarthritis (OA) patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Christensen R, Bartels EM, Astrup A, Bliddal H.

The Parker Institute, Musculoskeletal Statistics Unit, Frederiksberg Hospital, Denmark.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of preparations with avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) in osteoarthritis (OA) patients using meta-analysis on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). METHOD: RCTs from systematic searches were included if they explicitly stated that hip and/or knee OA patients were randomized to either ASU or placebo. The co-primary outcome was reduction in pain and Lequesne index, leading to effect size (ES), calculated as the standardized mean difference. As secondary analysis, the number of responders to therapy was analyzed as odds ratios (ORs). Restricted maximum likelihood methods were applied for the meta-analyses, using mixed effects models. RESULTS: Four trials--all supported by the manufacturer--were included, with 664 OA patients with either hip (41.4%) or knee (58.6%) OA allocated to either 300 mg ASU (336) or placebo (328). Average trial duration was 6 months (range: 3-12 months). Though based on heterogeneous results, the combined pain reduction favored ASU (I(2) = 83.5%, ES = 0.39 [95% confidence intervals: 0.01-0.76], P=0.04). Applying the Lequesne index also favored ASU (I(2) = 61.0%, ES = 0.45 [0.21-0.70], P = 0.0003). Secondarily, the number of responders following ASU compared to placebo (OR = 2.19, P = 0.007) corresponded to a number needed to treat of six (4-21) patients. CONCLUSIONS: Based on the available evidence, patients may be recommended to give ASU a chance for e.g., 3 months. Meta-analysis data support better chances of success in patients with knee OA than in those with hip OA.

Br J Nutr. 2009 Aug;102(4):619-24. Epub 2009 Mar 30.

Food patterns associated with blood lipids are predictive of coronary heart disease: the Whitehall II study.

McNaughton SA, Mishra GD, Brunner EJ.

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Melbourne 3125, Australia. sarah.mcnaughton@deakin.edu.au

Analysis of the epidemiological effects of overall dietary patterns offers an alternative approach to the investigation of the role of diet in CHD. We analysed the role of blood lipid-related dietary patterns using a two-step method to confirm the prospective association of dietary pattern with incident CHD. Analysis is based on 7314 participants of the Whitehall II study. Dietary intake was measured using a 127-item FFQ. Reduced rank regression (RRR) was used to derive dietary pattern scores using baseline serum total and HDL-cholesterol, and TAG levels as dependent variables. Cox proportional hazard regression was used to confirm the association between dietary patterns and incident CHD (n 243) over 15 years of follow-up. Increased CHD risk (hazard ratio (HR) for top quartile: 2.01 (95% CI 1.41, 2.85) adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity and energy misreporting) was observed with a diet characterised by high consumption of white bread, fried potatoes, sugar in tea and coffee, burgers and sausages, soft drinks, and low consumption of French dressing and vegetables. The diet-CHD relationship was attenuated after adjustment for employment grade and health behaviours (HR for top quartile: 1.81; 95% CI 1.26, 2.62), and further adjustment for blood pressure and BMI (HR for top quartile: 1.57; 95% CI 1.08, 2.27). Dietary patterns are associated with serum lipids and predict CHD risk after adjustment for confounders. RRR identifies dietary patterns using prior knowledge and focuses on the pathways through which diet may influence disease. The present study adds to the evidence that diet is an important risk factor for CHD.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Feb;27(1):109-16.

Lipid metabolism and antioxidant status in sucrose vs. potato-fed rats.

Robert L, Narcy A, Rayssiguier Y, Mazur A, Rémésy C.

INRA, Unité de Nutrition Humaine, Equipe Stress Métabolique et Micronutriments, Centre de Clermont-Ferrand/Theix, 63122 Saint-Genès Champanelle, France.

OBJECTIVE: Consumption of high levels of simple carbohydrates is associated with several metabolic disorders in humans and in laboratory animals, including symptoms of an early stage of metabolic syndrome (syndrome X). This disorder has several cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertriglyceridemia, and is associated with an increase in oxidative stress. In contrast to sucrose, potato, a source of complex carbohydrates and antioxidant micronutrients, was thought to improve lipid metabolism and antioxidant protection. METHODS: We investigated the effects of diets containing i) complex dietary carbohydrates and antioxidant micronutrients (potato Solanum tuberosum L.), ii) complex carbohydrates (starch) and iii) a simple carbohydrate (sucrose) on lipid metabolism and antioxidant status in rats. RESULTS: An increase in short chain fatty acid (SCFA) pools was observed in the cecum of rats fed a potato-based diet, resulting from an increase in all SCFAs, especially propionate (+360%, P < 0.0001). Feeding rats a potato-based diet for 3 weeks led to a decrease in cholesterol (-37%, potato vs. control and -32%, potato vs. sucrose) and triglycerides (-31%, potato vs. control and -43%, potato vs. sucrose) concentrations in triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TGRLP) fractions. The antioxidant status was decreased by sucrose consumption and improved by potato consumption. CONCLUSIONS: Our present results suggest that consumption of complex carbohydrates (provided as cooked potatoes), in combination with different antioxidant micronutrients, may enhance the antioxidant defences and improve lipid metabolism, when compared with starch (complex carbohydrates) and to sucrose consumption (source of simple sugar). These effects limit oxidative stress and reduce the risk of developing the associated degenerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and could have potential in cardiovascular disease prevention.

Eur J Nutr. 2006 Aug;45(5):267-74. Epub 2006 Apr 3.

Entire potato consumption improves lipid metabolism and antioxidant status in cholesterol-fed rat.

Robert L, Narcy A, Rock E, Demigne C, Mazur A, Rémésy C.

Unité des Maladies Métaboliques et Micronutriments Institut National de Recherche Agronomique Centre de Clermont-Ferrand/Theix, 63122 Saint-Genès Champanelle, France.

BACKGROUND: Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of a variety of nutrients, including vitamins (E and C), trace minerals, and dietary fibers, and many other classes of biologically active compounds such as carotenoids and polyphenols, which are often assumed to protect against degenerative pathologies such as cardiovascular diseases. Although potato is considered as a starchy food, it is also included in the category of vegetables by its micronutrient content. AIM OF THE STUDY: In the present study, we investigated in the rat the effect of a potato-enriched diet on lipid metabolism and antioxidant protection. RESULTS: Feeding rats a potato-enriched diet for 3 weeks led to a significant decrease in cholesterol and triglyceride levels in plasma (respectively, -30%, P<0.0001 and -36%, P<0.05) and cholesterol level in liver (-42%, P<0.0001). Antioxidant status was also improved by potato consumption. TBARS levels in heart were decreased and vitamin E/triglycerides ratio in plasma was improved. CONCLUSIONS: Our present results suggest that consumption of cooked potatoes (consumed with skin) may enhance antioxidant defense and improve the lipid metabolism. These effects could be interesting for prevention of cardiovascular disease.

J Ethnopharmacol. 1996 Jun;52(2):61-70.

The antimicrobial properties of chile peppers (Capsicum species) and their uses in Mayan medicine.

Cichewicz RH, Thorpe PA.

Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, Ohio University, Athens 45701, USA.

A survey of the Mayan pharmacopoeia revealed that tissues of Capsicum species (Solanaceae) are included in a number of herbal remedies for a variety of ailments of probable microbial origin. Using a filter disk assay, plain and heated aqueous extracts from fresh Capsicum annuum, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum chinese, Capsicum frutescens, and Capsicum pubescens varieties were tested for their antimicrobial effects with fifteen bacterial species and one yeast species. Two pungent compounds found in Capsicum species (capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin) were also tested for their anti-microbial effects. The plain and heated extracts were found to exhibit varying degrees of inhibition against Bacillus cereus, Bacillus subtilis, Clostridium sporogenes, Clostridium tetani, and Streptococcus pyogenes.

Phytother Res. 2003 Apr;17(4):348-52.

Cytotoxic and multidrug resistance reversal activity of a vegetable, 'Anastasia Red', a variety of sweet pepper.

Motohashi N, Wakabayashi H, Kurihara T, Takada Y, Maruyama S, Sakagami H, Nakashima H, Tani S, Shirataki Y, Kawase M, Wolfard K, Molnár J.

Meiji Pharmaceutical University, Kiyose, Tokyo, Japan. motohasi@my-pharm.ac.jp

The vegetable, Anastasia Red, Capsicum annuum L. var. angulosum Mill. (Solanaceae) was successively extracted with hexane, acetone, methanol and 70% methanol, and the extracts were further separated into a total of 21 fractions by silica gel or octadecylsilane (ODS) column chromatography. The biological activities of extracts and fractions were determined. These extracts showed relatively higher cytotoxic activity against two human oral tumor cell lines (HSC-2, HSG) than against normal human gingival fibroblasts (HGF), suggesting a tumor-specific cytotoxic activity. The cytotoxic activity of these extracts was enhanced by fractionation on silica gel [H2, A2, M1-M3] or ODS column chromatography [70M]. Several fractions [H2, H4, H5, A1, A2, A3, A5, A6, A7, M2] reversed the multidrug resistance (MDR) phenotype with L5178 mouse lymphoma T cells, more efficiently than (+/-)-verapamil. The extracts and fractions did not show any detectable anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or anti-Helicobacter pylori activity. Thus, this study suggests the effective and selective antitumor potential of 'Anastasia Red' of sweet pepper for further phytochemical and biological investigation. Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.