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Pizza — laden with roasted golden beets, zucchini and vitamin-K-packed SPINACH.

I picked up my CSA delivery box this past week and guess what I found inside?

Whoa, how did you know?

Spinach, glorious deep-green spinach. And lots of it.

I’m not complaining because it’s the best spinach on the planet. It’s just that you have to get very creative with your recipe development when you’re in the deep-end of spinach season. Beet, zucchini and spinach pizza, anyone? Trust me, this was over-the-top delicious. But, before I launch into the recipe, please humor me (or skip this part) and let me wallow in my geek-ness.

Ready?

I have a theory about hearty greens (like spinach and kale) and celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.

Celiac disease is a genetically predisposed autoimmune disease in which gluten (the main storage protein in wheat, barley and rye) wreaks havoc on the small intestine, inhibiting nutrient absorption. That’s the super-duper, shortened definition. If you want the unabridged version, leave me a comment and I’ll fill you in on anything and everything you might want to know about celiac disease and gluten-intolerance. But for now, my theory about spinach and it’s role in healing.

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense (calorie for calorie) foods available. I bet the deep-green, leafy, organic stuff I get from Grant Family Farms is on the far-side of pharmaceutical grade. It’s packed with vitamin K – 1110% of the recommended daily value. It also contains a zillion other health-promoting nutrients, but to keep this post from becoming a thesis paper, I’m going to focus on vitamin K and celiac disease.

Without getting into the poopy (literally) details, unmanaged celiac disease can cause nutrient malabsorption. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), iron, folic acid and a large part of our calcium are absorbed in the proximal section (the top part) of the small intestine. That’s the area that receives the most damage when you have celiac disease. If you have a trashed small intestine and you’re not breaking down your food adequately or absorbing your nutrients efficiently, you won’t be absorbing your fats (to make a long story short). If you’re not absorbing your fats, you won’t be absorbing your fat soluble vitamins. If you’re not absorbing your fat soluble vitamins, you won’t get the full benefit of vitamin K.

This is a generality. Our bodies are amazing and we compensate in many different ways, but if you become deficient in vitamin K, your blood may not clot properly. Isn’t it interesting that our blood has this amazing ability to flow quickly throughout the body; up and down and all around? Think about it, it remains a flowing liquid. But if you cut yourself, it can become a solid within seconds. Whew, that’s a good thing. If blood didn’t clot, one pinprick could drain the entire body of all its blood. Imagine a water balloon with one tiny little hole in it. Eventually all the water would slowly drain from the balloon.

Does anyone out there bruise or bleed easily? Anyone with celiac disease? Hmmm?

Vitamin K also plays a role in the synthesis of bone proteins. Without adequate vitamin K, the bones produce a funky protein that can’t bind to the minerals that normally form bones. You see, it’s not just the calcium you need for strong bones, it’s also vitamin K (and a bunch of other things, including exercise).

Anyone with osteopenia or osteoporosis? And celiac disease? Hmmm?

One more geeky thing (maybe two) and I’ll get on to the pizza recipe. Vitamin K can also be obtained from a nonfood source. GI tract bacteria can synthesize vitamin K, but you need to have a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria for that to happen. Antibiotics also kill the vitamin K producing bacteria, so there are lots of ways to become deficient, especially if you have celiac disease.

Now, don’t go taking vitamin K supplements unless your doctor prescribes them. Fat-soluble vitamins aren’t excreted as easily as water-soluble vitamins, so the risk of toxicity is much greater. I’m a big fan of getting my nutrients from high-quality food. This kind of focus is called nutrition therapy – this is what I do and this is how I live (most of the time, anyway).

So, let thy food be thy medicine and go eat some spinach!

gluten-free, spinach, roasted beet and zucchini pizza
what you need

1 gluten-free pizza crust (I used an Udi’s pre-made thin crust on this pizza)
1 & 1/2  tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
squeeze of honey (maybe 1-2 teaspoons)
2 small golden beets, scrubbed, trimmed and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes (no need to peel)
1 zucchini, washed and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
2 cups spinach, washed, stemmed and chopped
grated cheese (I like a mix of  shredded Parmesan, Romano and Asiago)

what you do
1. Because the beets and zucchini take longer to cook than the pizza itself, I like to roast them first. It also adds a nice taste to the pizza. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the prepared beets and zucchini in a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Gently mix to cover with oil. Spread out the veggies on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast on center rack of the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch closely and flip using a spatula to make sure they’re roasted evenly. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the veggies are roasting, melt the butter over low heat, add the garlic and honey and stir until blended.
3. Brush the melted butter-garlic-honey blend over the pizza crust. Add chopped spinach first, then beets and zucchini. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and cook in 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Cut into 4 slices and enjoy! Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are.

* I’ve also made this pizza with red beets, but I kept the beets separate while preparing them so that everything else didn’t turn pink (not that it matters).

Udi’s is a local company. The pizza crusts are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free and delicious. Gluten-cootie-eaters don’t even know they’re gluten-free. No apologizing, no explaining needed!

Peace, love and vitamin K!
Melissa

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30 Responses to “gluten-free spinach beet zucchini pizza”

  1. Alta says:

    OMG this looks amazing. Bring on the spinach! (and the beets, another favorite of mine) I have this (perhaps somewhat irrational) belief/behavior where I tend to hold dark, leafy greens as the highest of healthy when it comes to vegetables – spinach being one of those “superfoods”. I’m sure it’s half-unfounded, as of course, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, etc all provide wonderful vitamins and nutrients too, but I guess it’s just that every time I eat spinach, I FEEL so good. It’s a happy relationship – spinach and me.

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  3. This looks great! Now I really wish I could eat cheese and rice.

  4. Jennifer R. says:

    Thanks for your “geekness” — I enjoyed it!
    I was curious what your thoughts are of spinach and hypothyroidism — should you avoid those greens (like spinach, cabbage and kale)? thanks! (and I am gluten intolerant).

  5. You’re killing me. I am so hungry right now but don’t have all the ingredients needed for this amazing looking pizza. I add beets to almost everything but this one is most creative.
    Good info. on vitamin K and celiac conditions. I swear I get enough but I am in the osteopenia camp. Looking at high acids, too.

  6. Melissa says:

    Alta — you’re actually right-on with your assessment of dark, green, leafy vegetables. They are super food! Spinach is nutrient dense, meaning you get a lot of bang for your buck (or calorie in this case!). Go for it! We’re on the same wave-length with this.

    :-)

  7. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I liked the recipe but I liked the information about absorption of vitamins even more! You have a way of explaining the important stuff so well that we can easily ‘digest’ it. At this rate we’ll all be up to speed on nutrition in bite size portions…. thanks Melissa.

    Cid

  8. I love the combination of the beets and spinach – yummy! Great idea to roast them.
    thanks so much!

  9. lo says:

    Love all the info you’ve packed into this post, Melissa… and I love it even more when my vitamins taste as good as spinach does!

    You also get points for creativity on this one — beets on pizza? Brilliant!

  10. Melissa says:

    Diane,

    Yuk, that’s a drag that you can’t eat cheese or rice! Rice is such a default grain for those of us with celiac or a gluten intolerance that it must be especially hard for you to find easy alternatives. My heart goes out to you!

    xo

  11. Melissa says:

    Jennifer,

    That’s such a GOOD question and one that is asked over and over (by me as well). I’m also concerned about my thyroid because of celiac disease and some other reasons. I’ve done a lot of research on this and there’s no definitive answer. There aren’t many studies regarding goitrogenic foods (cruciferous veggies, etc.) and thyroid function. But, it’s generally accepted that if you have HYPOthyroidism (low-functioning), you should watch the intake of those foods, especially if they’re raw. Millet is also a food to be aware of with an under-functioning thyroid, although I don’t know if cooking or baking reduces the problem.

    Here’s my take on it all (for what it’s worth and keep in mind, I’m a nutritionist, not a doctor). I eat these foods in moderation, mostly when they’re in season. Right now I’m actually eating more spinach than usual, but that will change soon because of the local growing season. I also mix it up, eating some raw and some cooked. Cooking may disable the goitrogenic substances in the food, but again, there’s not a lot of research on that.

    One thing I’m becoming more and more convinced of (through experience) is that people who have autoimmune thyroid disorders should avoid gluten even if they don’t have celiac disease. I also believe a diet of whole foods and the right kind of exercise will help maintain healthy thyroid function. There are specific yoga poses that stimulate the thyroid.

    Hope that helps!

    Melissa

  12. Melissa says:

    Karen,

    Thanks for your comments. I always appreciate your input. Yes, I love beets and am fearless in my creative endeavors with them. They’re such under-used veggies and they’re wonderful!

    Osteopenia — I know you know this, but exercise (especially weight-bearing) has to be included in protecting yourself from osteoporosis. It’s SO important to stress your bones and make them think they need to bulk up! If the muscle is constantly pulling on the bone, the bone will increase in size. Just think about how much bigger Serena Williams’ right arm bones (radius and ulna) are than they are in her left arm. Major difference in the density.

    Downward facing dog! Go for it!

    =)

  13. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    I am often hesitant to ramble about certain aspects of nutrition and physiology, but when you realize how important these building blocks are to health, it makes you think a little more about what you eat. I do a presentation in which I compare a Hostess Snoball (crappy American food) with an organic apple and a beet. Long story, sometimes when you break it down and explain what the nutrients do in your body and how junk food doesn’t provide anything beneficial, people make a little more effort to eat better.

    Thanks, I really appreciate you mentioning that. Sometimes I wonder if my rambling makes any sense to people!!

    xo

  14. Melissa says:

    Sarah,

    Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comment. Yes, the combo of beets and spinach is a good one.

  15. Melissa says:

    Lo,

    Points for creativity?! Thanks, I love that!

    Well, you get points for style, my friend. And humor. And you’re not lacking in creativity either. Must be why I like you so much!

    :-)

  16. Outstanding post, Melissa!!! And, really, it deserves more exclamation marks, but I didn’t want to go too crazy on you. ;-) As you’ve indicated so very well (great writing in getting in all your nutritional points), folks who have those symptoms may well have celiac/gluten intolerance and should follow up on that. In those cases, all the spinach, exercise, etc. won’t fix the vitamin/mineral deficiencies and the conditions that result from those deficiencies, like osteopenia. Gotta get to the source of the problems first! Of course, you know that, but just beating the drum a bit more …

    Now that pizza … it’s seriously droolworthy. I’d go for it in a heartbeat, especially right now for breakfast. I’m sipping hot lemon water, but following it up with that pizza would be so nice!

    xoxo,
    Shirley

  17. Penny says:

    This was SO delicious! I made it over the weekend as an appetizer for some friends I had over and they loved it! I did add one extra ingredient though – I’ve become obsessed with these pre-seasoned chickpeas called Chunky Chickpeas from the brand Tastybite and I sprinkled them over the top of the pizza, which added a lovely extra flavor to it. It was delici ous and I recommend doing this as well as looking at other products from Tastybite, of which most are gluten free. Otherwise, this recipe was delicous! Thanks!

  18. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    Thanks — I appreciate your sweet comments! Yes, you are what you eat (sort of). But as you mention, you’re also what you’re ABLE to digest and break down, absorb into circulation and assimilate to every cell in your body. So — if you’re digestion is compromised, you aren’t getting the full benefit of the nutrients you eat. Sad situation! It’s important to get to the root of the problem!

    Thanks! Good points, as always.

  19. Melissa says:

    Penny,

    I really appreciate you letting me know how much you liked this recipe! Thanks!

    And adding chickpeas is brilliant. I will be trying that next time around.

    :-)

  20. Melissa, what an awesome post! You description is perfect! I am working on my Thesis for my Master’s in Holistic Nutrition right now and the main focus of it is the havoc that the damaged (leaky, aka impermeable) gut has on endless autoimmune diseases! By the way, love this recipe! I have golden beets wrapped in foil ready to roast for tonight AND an Udi’s pizza crust in the freezer. Maybe I need to put the 2 together along with that yummy spinach!
    PS just sent you an email about IFBC!

  21. [...] Spinach Beet Zucchini Pizza (go look at Melissa’s photo before you shake your head—I think you’ll be [...]

  22. Melissa says:

    Kim,

    Thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate your input. And it’s nice to hear you’re working on your master’s in Holistic Nutrition. Good for you and good luck with your career. It’s very rewarding and we need more people who understand how digestive issues impact everything else!

    Hope you enjoyed the pizza. I am the queen of beets, so beet pizza is a natural for me. Love them!

    :-)

  23. Great post! Having personally healed from an ‘incurable’ autoimmune disease, I am forever excited by prospect that others are doing the same by simply giving their body what it needs to heal and be well.

  24. This post and your comments are full of helpful info for my stage of the gf lifestyle. The pizza looks pretty good, too. Thanks. Wendy

  25. Jessica says:

    This pizza looks delicious!

    I like your theory on spinach. I’ve never been tested for celiac, but I’ve go associated diseases (hashimotos) and other signals (son with autism, other son delayed, daughter with add) and others I can’t think of right now. Still trying to find a doc to test me even though I have no “gut” symptoms.

  26. nice post..i didn’t know that spinach can go along on a pizza like that.. since spinach had lot of minerals that are very beneficial to our body.. and not just that, the pizza also looks good and taste good as well..

  27. [...] made Melissa’s Zucchini Tomato Basil Bake and Spinach Roasted Beet Zucchini Pizza. (I have a feeling beets are still in season.) I haven’t read Melissa’s blog, yet. But, [...]

  28. [...] they don’t like them.  Take a look at all the great veggies Melissa gets on her pizzas, Spinach Beet Zucchini Pizza, Radicchio Squash or how about Quinoa [...]

  29. [...] Spinach Beet Zucchini Pizza from Melissa at Gluten Free For Good [...]

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