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ReThrive Recipe: Arugula & Red Bell Pepper Polenta

If you're anything like me, and have the tendency to head straight to the coffee pot in the morning in lieu of breakfast, then let me be the first to say- I hear you- who's got time for that?! Well, in support of my wellness routine, I'm working to make time for that. Building wellness habits is certainly a process, and as I continue to shape healthy routines in my life, I love sharing what is working.

Like many of the recipes I create, this Arugula & Red Bell Pepper Polenta not only saves time, but it is also teeming with simple, easy to find, budget-friendly ingredients that support whole-body wellness and helps to manage &/or prevent chronic illness.

I recently met with a wonderful fellow yoga teacher, who is also an ayurvedic practitioner (shout out to the ever-talented and insightful Elyse!), who, with much humor and grace, reminded me just how beneficial it is to start your day with a little yummy in the tummy.

Ayurveda, the sister-science of yoga, is a Sanskrit term that translates to "knowledge of life," and the principles of this ancient wisdom undertake an integrative approach to total wellness that harmonizes both our internal and external systems. In Ayurveda, a warm, light breakfast kickstarts the digestive system, provides a boost of sustaining energy, and may reduce the "need" for an ultra-caffeinated start to your day. As Elyse so gently reminded me -- Ayurveda isn't all-or-nothing, but instead favors the middle road and offers an approach that fosters self-tailored and compassionate guidance. In honor of this concept, I've put together a breakfast dish that balances craveable comfort and warmth with powerhouse health benefits.

Arugula & Red Bell Pepper Polenta

This quick-cooking meal takes less than 10 minutes from your day to make, and eats like comfort food, despite being packed with nutrients that support your total health and wellness.

This recipe contains:

Polenta, aka cooked corn meal, is not only gluten-free for those with gluten sensitivities, but also contains both protein and fiber, and is rich in complex carbohydrates-- which can help promote more controlled blood sugar levels. As someone who lives with diabetes, this last point is the real kicker, because polenta has that super-indulgent feel without the guilt. In addition, polenta is both low in fat, and contains carotenoids, which are though to decrease the risk of some cancers and promote eye-health.

Arugula, which is a cruciferous vegetable, is a cousin of kale, broccoli, and cabbage. These leafy greens that you can find in most grocery stores have a peppery flavor that pack a nutritious punch. It may surprise you to know that arugula has almost 3g of protein per 100g of greens. Moreover, arugula is full of antioxidants, vitamin K, and glucosinolates that may protect you against certain cancers, fight inflammation, and when eaten regularly could also contribute to healthy prevention of osteoporosis.

Red Bell Pepper: this "lady in red" is always stunning, sweet, and dare I say, the "bell of the ball?" (all the puns intended!). Packed full of vitamins C, A, and B6, red bell peppers support eye-health, iron absorption in the body, and are a great addition to any diet for anemia-prevention. If this wasn't enough to have you jump fully on board with the benefits of our friend the red bell pepper, red bell peppers support a healthy metabolism with their mild thermogenic activation, thus increasing our digestive fire without raising the heart rate and blood pressure.

Kalonji Seeds, aka black cumin or nigella, is an ancient culinary and medicinal ingredient belonging to the buttercup family of flowering plants. The seeds produced by the fruits of this flower are not only flavorful, but have incredibly well-rounded health benefits. Some of the foremost benefits of this gorgeous black seed are its hand in reducing cholesterol, fighting chronic inflammation, protecting the liver, and regulating blood sugar levels. Despite it's established history, kalonji can often be an overlooked addition in American cuisine, but believe me when I say, kalonji is the new black if you're looking to have better management over heart health, cholesterol, cancer prevention, and diabetes.

Fennel Seeds, or Saunf, as they're called in India (the largest exporter of Fennel Seeds in the world), are a powerhouse when it comes to flavor and nutrients. Rich in fiber, packed with vitamins C, E, K, and abound with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and iron, dried fennel seeds (found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores) are hands down an ingredient to add to your starting line-up for digestion, immune support, healthy metabolism, and the reduction of bad breath, gas, and bloating. If you're not familiar with the flavor profile of fennel seeds, they have prominent notes of anise/licorice, and if you eat meat, you'll commonly find whole fennel seeds imparting their wonderful flavor in products like Italian sausage.


Arugula & Red Bell Pepper Polenta


1 cup water

1/2 cup corn meal

3 cups raw arugula

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 tsp dried kalonji seeds

1/4 tsp dried fennel seeds

salt & black pepper to taste

optional garnishes:

2 tbsps plain unsweetened plant-based yogurt

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. Add water to a small sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a boil.

  2. While you're waiting for the water to boil, dice the red bell pepper, and maybe do a little happy dance in the kitchen.

  3. When the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat, and stir in the corn meal until water is fully absorbed.

  4. Add in the arugula and bell pepper, and continue stirring until you see the arugula start to wilt.

  5. Spoon into a bowl, top with kalonji and fennel seeds, and season to taste.

  6. Optional: garnish with yogurt or a few dots of extra virgin olive oil.


Nicole MacDonald is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, social worker, reiki master, and whole-food plant-based food gobbler living in Southern Maine with her wonderful husband and golden retriever. Nicole lives with Type 1.5 diabetes, and is now in full remission from stage II thyroid cancer. She is active in the outdoors, delights in traveling, and also loves being at home cooking, gardening, knitting, reading, playing video games, and spending time with her family.

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