There is healing or harming energies in the food we choose to ingest, the way we think about the food we eat, the way we eat it and of course what we choose to ingest. There is no "one approach fits all," nor one that fits us for our entire life. Both we and food are ever-changing, dynamic and synergistic making it essential for us to adapt our diets as our lifestyles and our environment adapt.
- Learn which foods help us thrive and top nutrient-dense favorites.
- Review better ways to prepare foods for optimal nutrition.
- Review food combination tips to maximize nutrition absorption.
Author and Chef, Teri Gentes, maps out our best eating approach accessing maximal energy from our diet and cultivating a state of optimal well-being for life.
Beyond The Surface
Just as each of us has our own definition of what constitutes a healthy diet, so does food come with its own variable gauge of nourishment. All plants are not originated, cultivated, planted and tended; nor are animals sired, farmed and nourished in one standard manner. These factors play a significant role in the nutrient density of the foods you choose to consume. In addition, for us to determine a healthy plan we must first consider our own individual needs along with the quality of these foods.
In our more nutrient savvy society it’s common to see slogans (paraphrased) such as, “know where your food comes from”; “befriend a farmer”; “favor the informative fish monger”! The quality of our food is an imperative consideration in the making of a diet that will cultivate our personally ideal degree of quality health as well as a sustainable, good for the whole, state of health. Both are important proponents in the production of our food, the development of our people, and our planet. We won’t find this in factory farms whether they are conventional or agri-organic.
The chart below reflects the declining quality of a once considered staple in our diet since post-war industrial farming invaded our food chain.
Nutrient Density Decline in Wheat
Per the above figure:
- Today’s wheat has about 19-28% less of important minerals like Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Copper, compared to the wheat our grandparents grew up with.
- There is also evidence that modern wheat is much more harmful to celiac patients and people with gluten sensitivity, compared to the older varieties.
- Whereas wheat may have been relatively healthy back in the day, the same is not true of modern dwarf wheat, which is what most people are consuming.
While once upon a time food quality wasn’t a concern, today the onus rests upon consumers to make concerted efforts to seek out the best food sources available to them. On a most positive note, demand creates supply and the rate of growth for smaller bio-dynamic farms is on the rise making it much easier to "know your farmer and where you food comes from." This reconnect to food is healthy for you, your family and the planet.
Now the question arises, what are the most nutrient dense foods to choose? While the opinions will vary and clash and contradict, there is a list below of the star foods compiled from Jonny Bowden’s book titled The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Based upon his criteria (omega 3’s, fiber, antioxidants and glycemic index/load) his top 150 foods are mentioned for their nutrient content.
Making the right food choices for our own particular needs has potent power upon our health. We truly can transition our state of health with our food choices and these foods stand out from the rest. Create your shopping list and menu planning with the chart below as a reference and begin navigating your way to ever increasing health. It truly is our most valuable commodity and this results from eating a wide variety of nutrient dense foods suited to your personal needs, objectives and lifestyle.
Jonny Bowden’s Star Foods
The foods below come with some criteria – farmed ethically, in quality soil with no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and ripening agents.
||Bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly
||Green drinks – cereal grasses, micro-algae
||Noni, pomegranate, fresh veggie juice
||Raw organic milk
||Yogurt, raw, plain organic,
||Extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed
||Wild Alaskan salmon
||Macadamia nut oil
Once you’ve determined your preferred choice of foods, it’s important to know that the manner you prepare and consume these impacts the nutrient count available to you. Read on for insights on how to maximize on the health benefits.
Which is best? Raw or cooked foods for overall health and prevention of diseases, such as our top killers (heart disease and cancer)?
Raw Food Versus Cooked Food
food benefits include: enzyme-rich for enhancing digestion and ensuring fragile essential fatty acids aren’t destroyed by heat. That said, some foods actually offer greater nutrient access when cooked.
When it comes to preferred preparation methods of vegetable, there is much merit to the recommendation to consume at least 50% of your dietary intake from raw foods. While some foods benefit from cooking enhancing the body’s ability to access nutrients (such as the lycopene in tomatoes), sweet bell pepper nutrition count is diminished when cooked. A standard rule of thumb on cooking does prevail – shorter time and lower cooking temperatures relate to better preservation of nutrients.
Below are details on some of the various methods and their impact on vegetables:
Cooked: Often increases the nutrient availability in such foods as tomatoes and greens like collards, kale, broccoli, green bell peppers and cabbage.
Research from Dr Greger of NutritionFacts (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/raw-food-nutrient-absorption-2/) shares studies demonstrating roasted almonds as healthier than raw, and the lycopene in cooked tomatoes is four times higher than raw. Below, the results form a study by food scientists on the antioxidant activity in twenty different vegetables revealing preferred cooking methods.
Boiled, pressure cooked, fried and microwaved? http://nutritionfacts.org/video/best-cooking-method/
- Microwave: Shockingly the study shows the microwave preserves nutrients the best.
- Boiled: 1st worst
- Pressure cooked: 2nd worst
- Fried: Was not recommended due to the typical added fats
- Steamed: Be sure to reserve the cooking water for use as broth or in smoothies
Cooking Methods of Meats
Frying/Stir frying, Roasting, Broiling, Grilling, BBQing, Smoking result in the production of heterocyclic amines (carcinogenic chemicals formed when cooking animal meats at high heat.) Well done meats demonstrate even higher cancer risk yet today’s meat farming practices demand this given the risk of salmonella and e-coli.
So what is the eater to do?
Common consensus from nutrition experts informs us a mostly plant-based diet is associated with greater health, disease resistance and in some cases even reversal. For some this may mean 100% plant based, for others 50-60% from the garden and the balance from the sea, sky or field, ideally not from a factory or a food scientist. Whatever your choice, remember food quality counts and consuming vegetables is essential. Cooked and/or raw, be sure to include them in your diet daily. Ideally at every meal, and if eating animal meats, ensure you avoid the blacken areas as well as the smoke fumes when preparing indoors. These are carcinogenic (mutagens increasing the risk of cancer).
Putting It All Together - Food Combining
From Daniel Reid’s book – The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity
"Correctly combining foods makes all the difference in the world to proper digestion and metabolism.``
What we ingest is only a small part of the path to increased health. More important is what we digest, absorb, assimilate and effective elimination of the waste products. Impaired digestion and metabolism of even the most nutrient-dense foods leave us at risk of such diseases as chronic inflammation, excess unhealthy bacterial growth, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, obesity, arteriosclerosis and cancer.
As most foods contain some protein or some carbohydrates, even if in trace amounts, the general determining factors are:
- Foods containing 15 percent or more protein are categorized as a protein.
- Foods containing 20 percent or more carbohydrate are considered as a carbohydrate.
When combining different types of food in a single meal, it is considered that a little protein or carbohydrate is ok, especially if plenty of raw vegetables are included to provide active enzymes and fibrous bulk. The ideal premise is one should consume only one variety of food at a single sitting. While this may seem daunting to accomplish I suggest client incorporate at least one properly combined meal into your day is doable. Begin with this following the guidelines below.
The Concept of Proper Food Combining Simplified
- Consume protein-rich foods with vegetables and carbohydrate-rich foods with vegetables.
- Do not combine protein-rich and starchy foods together.
- Do not combine various protein sources such as steak, eggs and dairy – eat only one source at a time.
- Avoid consuming acidic foods with protein.
- Consume sugar, including fruits by themselves before or well between meals.
Just cooked halibut with blanched vegetables
Wild rice, zucchini and cauliflower
Organic oatmeal, nutritional yeast
*Note: Vegetarians and Vegans - there is a prevalent myth that to obtain complete proteins one must combine incomplete proteins in one meal. Studies have assured us, as long as complementary proteins are consumed with a day or two, essential amino acids needs are met.
A Baseline Enabling a Better Chance to Eat to Peak Your Health
- Eat foods as close to their natural, undaunted state as possible.
- Find a farmer, fetch and forage and when possible, grow/raise your own. Of course this isn’t an option for everyone yet we can all pick up a pot of organic herbs from the grocer and begin somewhere.
- Be mindful of proper food combining practices, especially if plagued with digestion challenges.
- Take time to enjoy eating and ensure consumption of a wide variety.
- Nurture a love-love, honor and savor relationship with food (and your farmer).
Health is our most valuable commodity! Let’s treat it accordingly and make it a priority in life rather than an afterthought.
The information is intended for education purposes ONLY and is not intended to replace a physician’s advice.
Encyclopedia of Natural Healing - Siegfried, MH; Zoltan Rona, MD, MSc; Alive Research Group
Dr Greger, www.nutritionfacts.org
Daniel Reid. The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet