This Dietitian’s Cozy Coconut Milk and Vegetable Stew Recipe Is a Goldmine of Gut Health Benefits

Photo: Christine Han/Eating From Our Roots
What if, this January, you ignored all the voices telling you what you “should be” and instead focused on finding the healthful habits that feel right for *you*? With ReNew Year, the only thing we’re detoxing from is a restrictive mindset. Pick a goal—movement, food, self care, or all three—and hit refresh. Get the Program

If you look into any chef’s pantry, you’ll likely find a vast array of herbs and spices—which are some of their (many) secret ingredients for making restaurant-worthy meals at home. And for those following along with Well+Good's 2023 ReNew Year program, you already know that sprinkling vegetable-forward dishes with flavorful spices is one way that Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, owner of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition and cookbook author of Eating from Our Roots (which comes out January 24, 2023), loves to craft delicious, nutrient-rich recipes at home.

One of Feller’s favorite flavor-packed recipes from her new cookbook is for Ital stew, a hearty vegetarian dish inspired by Rastafarianism, a religious and political movement that began in Jamaica in the 1930s and was adopted by many groups around the globe. “Ital is the core of the whole foods-based vegetarian eating patterns that Rastafarians follow," Feller says. "Ital food is said to contain the vital and beneficial essence of plants."

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While the ingredient list for making Ital stew may appear lengthy at first sight, know that the range of veggies incorporated into the dish is precisely what makes it so good for you. (The diversity of plant foods in your diet is, after all, the number one predictor of a healthy gut microbiome according to gastroenterologists.) Indeed, each component of this hearty stew is packed with flavor and health-boosting benefits—and know that it isn’t intimidating to prepare whatsoever. Made with a variety of veggies like corn, okra, split peas, green plantains, and tomatoes, this stew features just about every good-for-you nutrient imaginable per serving.

For starters, tomatoes are loaded with an antioxidant plant compound known as lycopene, which is linked to boosting longevity and lowering inflammation in the body. Meanwhile, the corn and peas are filled with tons of gut-friendly, microbiome-balancing fiber to help promote healthy digestion. Plus, the recipe also features pumpkin, which is high in vitamin A (which is great for eye health), vitamin C (excellent for immunity), and loads of magnesium (which can help promote relaxation). Basically, as you run through the list of ingredients to make this flavorful dish, you won’t find a single ingredient that isn’t loaded with tons of health perks and cozy flavor. Ready to get stewing?

jamaican vegetable stew
Photo: Christine Han/Eating From Our Roots

Maya Feller's Ital stew recipe from Eating From Our Roots

Yields 4-6 servings

1 yellow onion, diced
2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tsp avocado oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups pumpkin, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup split peas
1 ear of corn, cut lengthwise into 2-inch pieces
2 green plantains, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 Tsp kosher salt
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 cup okra, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 habanero pepper
Lime wedges, for garnish
1 bunch fresh cilantro, torn, for garnish

1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, place the onion, scallions, garlic, and oil. Cook for three to five minutes, stirring occasionally and taking care not to burn the garlic. Add one cup of water and cook for an additional five minutes.

2. Add the thyme, bay leaves, coconut milk, broth, pumpkin, and split peas, and cook uncovered over medium-high heat for eight minutes. Next, add the corn, plantains, tomatoes, salt, and lemon juice and zest, and cook for 30 minutes.

3. Add the okra and habanero and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, spoon the stew into a bowl and garnish with a wedge of lime and fresh cilantro.

Recipe from EATING FROM OUR ROOTS. Copyright © 2023 by Maya Feller
Photography copyright © 2023 by Christine Han
Published by goop Press/Rodale Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

Prepare to add this vegan Italian "meatball" soup into your weekly veggie-forward recipe rotation:

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