Dairy-free Lemon Basil Pesto
Sometimes it feels like there are just way too many things we have to give up in order to reduce inflammation and optimize health. I am here to tell you that pesto is not one of them!
Yes, traditional pesto contains parmesan cheese (dairy!). Since dairy is inflammatory, and one of the most common dietary sensitivities for Thyroid Thrivers, the store-bought stuff is a no-go. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is actually a win-win.
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Why is Dairy-free Pesto a Win-Win?
Because store-bought pesto doesn’t hold a candle to homemade. It often contains preservatives, is not organic, and is built upon a base of inflammatory refined oil instead of extra virgin olive oil.
Pesto, like so much Italian food, is gloriously simple: basil, garlic, olive oil, nuts, cheese, salt, and pepper. Every summer when my garden gives me more basil than we can eat, I toss a new version together. It’s always a little different, and I can honestly say, I don’t miss the cheese.
I make big batches of the stuff and squirrel it away in the freezer like the treasure that it is. One of my favorite dinner delights is enjoying that summer pesto on a gluten-free, dairy-free pizza crust, loaded with fresh veggies and prosciutto, smack dab in the heart of winter.
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The Secret Ingredient: Nutritional Yeast
This recipe is one of my favorite versions of dairy-free pesto and has a secret ingredient that replaces some of the creaminess and cheesy flavor left out by the parmesan. Can you guess what it is? Nutritional yeast, aka “Nooch”.
Nutritional Yeast is a staple in the plant-based eating world because it’s a great source of complete protein, B vitamins, and trace minerals. You can find it in the bulk section at most health food stores. And in case you’re wondering, the yeast is not alive and does not worsen conditions like candida overgrowth.
NOTE: This thyroid-healthy ingredient is considered Paleo and AIP-compliant, but be sure to purchase nutritional yeast that is certified gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination.
- Garlic has many powerful healing properties, which can aid or alleviate some of the symptoms of thyroid conditions such as inflammation, cardiovascular issues, decreased immunity, and increased infection. It can also support the liver in its detoxification efforts.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil is considered one of the world’s healthiest fats. Some of its many scientifically-proven health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, high antioxidants, and reduced risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
- Nutritional Yeast (a.k.a. "Nooch) has many health benefits, especially for those who do not eat animal protein. It is a complete protein and a great source of B Vitamins and trace minerals. It also contains the potent antioxidants glutathione and selenomethionine, which can help protect us from chronic disease caused by oxidative stress, free radicals, and environmental toxins. Note: Be sure to purchase nutritional yeast that is certified gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination.
- Lemons are a very good source of vitamin C, with one ounce providing 36% DV. A study recently shared in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism stated, “In patients with hypothyroidism and gastrointestinal pathology, vitamin C improves the abnormalities in serum free T4, T3, and TSH concentrations.”