Thursday, December 15, 2011

What "superfoods" should you eat? (if any)

I went searching for a list of superfoods to incorporate into the diet and now I see why nobody does it. Whose list is right? One is too "everyday foods" that don't really SEEM all that super. Another is so far-fetched that the foods require special-ordering or seeking out a specialty store.

The reality is that every culture ate differently (and with a very limited number of foods in terms of variety) and were profoundly healthy because they were eating whole, unprocessed, sometimes raw foods (see the book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" by Dr. Weston Price if you want to be fascinated by this fact... there's even pictures!). So it stands to reason that a case could be made for ANY food being a "superfood" because in some culture before the industrial age--it probably was. Each food has it's own special qualities--it's own unique footprint left on your body when ingested.

Keeping all of this in mind, here is my own list of superfoods worth striving towards that are woefully absent in large quantities in the American diet, and make a monumental difference.

Water: Seriously. Not VitaminWater (have you seen the scandal about this? The Federal judge's review states "At oral arguments, defendants (Coca-Cola) suggested that no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage."). Not tea. Not coffee. Not juice. It's NOT. THE. SAME. At minimum, alternate between water and your beverage of choice, but DRINK. WATER. Everyone knows "it's important" but it would stun you to learn the things (some small, some huge) that not having enough water will do to you. Got a headache when you wake up? Drink an entire, large glass of water and lay back down for 15 minutes. TRY it. Tired? Drink an entire, large glass of water and wait 15 minutes before grabbing the coffee. No issues? GREAT! DRINK IT ANYWAY! And get your kids to drink water. Switch them over to water from fruit juice. They're not getting anything but unstable blood sugar from it.

Current-season vegetables: If you can manage to go organic and local, great. But let's focus on the real deal: eating what is grown in your area at your time of year is what will feed your body in ways that we generally don't think of. Ayurvedic medicine focuses quite a bit on this concept. Some of the things you find in winter in the northern part of the country are things we are no longer eating--yet they're full of Vitamin C and other nutrients that we need at that time of year; in addition to the physiological benefits that come with eating within the cycles of nature.

Some kind of fats: Preferably the animal fats that you've been brainwashed to believe are harming us. The backlash of that is a country dying of health problems that they believe are CAUSED by fats and are actually being worsened by LACK of fats. Including cardiovascular disease (which has found to be worsened not by fats, but by sugars and refined starches). Fats make you feel full and carry you longer without having to eat--stabilizing your blood sugar. Some have cholesterol--which is critical to brain function and development in small children. Got a cholesterol "problem"? Let's talk (or do some of your own research instead of just taking the prescription the doctor hands you)--because cholesterol is generally not "the" problem, but a symptom of something else going wrong. Olives, nuts, butter (especially for people with ADD/ADHD), red meat, salmon... all of these things incorporated into a balanced eating plan are not only wonderful, but HEALTHY. And for children and pregnant women, this is all the more critical.

Some amount of raw food: Approximately 30% of our body's energy is devoted to digestion because we eat cooked foods. Raw foods still have living enzymes in them. Those enzymes break our food down for us. In fact, that's kind of why we cook food: TO destroy the enzymes that break down the food ("spoil" the food). But if you have fresh food available, eat it raw. In addition to improved energy, your body is not depleting it's own reserves of enzymes. Add to it that your body launches an immune response to cooked foods--putting your immune system (which is responsible for keeping us healthy, but also the system that controls allergies) into overdrive.

Some amount of fermented food: Fermented food also contains wonderfully healthful bacteria (probiotics) for our system. Yogurt is what we are all familiar with, but what about kefir (a fermented milk drink), kombucha (a fermented tea drink), sauerkraut, kimchi (a fermented cabbage that's a bit more spicy than sauerkraut), red cabbage (a red version of sauerkraut with more sweet tang to it), pickles, tamari (a wheat-free soy sauce), vinegar, sourdough bread, tempeh (a fermented bean cake--usually soy--that can be used in place of meat in some dishes), miso (a fermented bean and grain mixture in many varieties but also often sold made with soy and rice and used for soups, salad dressings, etc.), giardiniera (an Italian recipe of multiple fermented vegetables often used with antipasta dishes). TRY something! In our house, each person has a different favorite. Yogurt, kefir, home-made kombucha, red cabbage, vinegar, miso (we use Shiro miso in soup) and pickles... we love them!

This list is "content". It speaks nothing to how your overall eating plan looks, just what it contains that you may not be getting enough of--things that make a difference. Sometimes things we know are important and don't get nearly enough of; or things we've been beaten over the head to avoid--much to the detriment of the health of our country.

And sure, there are plenty of other foods out there with claims to great qualities. Unless you have a specific problem and are going to eat those foods en masse, I don't see the point. Incorporating them into a well-balanced diet when you can find and afford them is great. But you have plenty available to you that will serve you well without struggling.

That's my list. Are there plenty of other "superfoods" out there? They're all super foods. Eat them!

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