Top 10 Superfoods – The Key To A Vibrant Healthy Life

The term “superfood” is pretty overused these days. It’s supposed to indicate a food with a particularly high nutrient content or medicinal quality, however, it’s a term with no legal definition and can be used in a variety of ways, including as a misleading marketing tool.

I’ve seen superfood lists that included items as mundane as turkey, tomatoes, and oats (not that they are not good foods mind you), advertizements that tout their products as superfoods (that fall SO short of the mark it’s ridiculous), and entire companies built around some particular fruit, berry, root or flower that try to lock buyers into long and expensive buying contracts.

To make it a bit simpler to make some best-practice choices, here are my top 10 picks for almost everyone. You might have to learn how to use some of them, but once you do, it is easy.

Keep in mind that food has healing properties and even medicinal qualities. Some foods are particularly rich in nutrients you might need more of. Depending on your specific needs there may be some items well worth including in your own personal top 10 list.

1. SEA VEGETABLES

Most of the American population consumes sea vegetables daily without even realizing it.

Unprocessed sea vegetables are a wonderful food and should really be consumed by all. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, yet low in calories. Sea vegetables are delicious in soups, stews, salads, side dishes, or for making sushi. Look for them in Asian markets and natural food stores.

Try: agar, nori, wakame, arame, hiziki, kombu, and dulse. Nori snack packs are now widely available at major stores like Trader Joe’s and Costco.

2. BERRIES

Berries are loaded with vitamin C, folate, fiber and phytonutrients. Indeed, fresh berries are some of the most powerful disease fighting foods available. They are great as a dessert, a snack, or sprinkled on top of your morning porridge.

Try: Goji (dried), raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and blackberries.

*Goji, acai, and mangosteen are often found as concentrated juices.  A few ounces per day can be enough to make a big difference in overall health.

3. LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES 

Green vegetables such as kale, chard, collard greens, watercress, arugula, bok choy, and dandelion greens are packed with vitamins A and C, iron, folate, beta-carotene, calcium and phytonutrients. They are very filling, high in fiber and low in calories. They are very alkalizing, good for the blood and chlorophyll helps the body cleanse itself.

4. NATURALLY FERMENTED PICKLES/FERMENTED FOODS

Rich in probiotics, pickles stimulate the immune system, improve the digestion process, and act as anti-oxidants. In addition, they also facilitate the synthesis of certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, and B12.

Try: rice bran pickles (nuka), sauerkraut, and Kim chi. There are more and more options on the store shelves–at least in natural food stores–and whole foods.

5. UMEBOSHI PLUM

Often called ‘the king of alkaline foods’, umeboshi plums are an ancient Japanese health food used to balance and strengthen. Highly valued for its antibacterial properties, a digestive aid, and also for hangovers or whenever the body feels depleted. A convenient way to consume it is to use umeboshi plum vinegar, which is not true vinegar but a fuchsia hued brine, ideal for sushi, dips, sauces, and salad dressings. Sold in Asian and natural foods markets.

6. SARDINES

This slender fish is packed full of important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium. Cold-water fish, such as sardines, contain the highest amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. One of the world’s first canned foods, the sardine is rich in phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, and niacin.

Get the ones packed in water without salt added if using canned. Also fresh and salt packed are really delicious! (rinse the salt off of course)

7. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Numerous studies have shown that those who consume the traditional Mediterranean diet low in saturated fat, are at decreased risk of developing heart disease and cancer. And epidemiological studies show that they also live longer. Recent data suggests that olive oil has anti-inflammatory benefits. Avoid over heating the oil and do not use for frying. Use Grape seed oil for higher temperature cooking. Also make sure that your olive oil is the real deal since there are lots of counterfeit olive oils out there now.

8. RAW CACAO

There’s plenty of research available to suggest that cacao is indeed really good for us. It has an extremely high concentration of anti oxidants such as polyphenols, catechins and epicatechins. It also has the highest levels of magnesium found in nature, as well as manganese, zinc, chromium, and iron, and more. Compounds in chocolate also help boost serotonin and endorphin levels which alleviate stress and depression, help with menstrual symptoms, reduce pain sensitivity and increase alertness. http://myrawyear.com/the-truly-raw-cacao-smoothie/

Try Raw cacao nibs in smoothies, trail mix, cereal, or plain.

9. MACA  

Maca root has been consumed by the people of the Andes for thousands of years. Scientists are now recognizing it for its immense nutritional value and the health benefits it offers. It is used to increase stamina and libido, help the endocrine system function properly, and is known to help women deal with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings.

Maca root is usually a dried powder and can be consumed as part of smoothies, teas, milk or coffee.

10. MUSHROOMS

The most commonly known and studied medicinal mushrooms include reishi mushroom, agaricus mushroom, Maitake, Shitake, and Coriolus mushroom.  Some of these medicinal mushrooms could be used culinarily, but most are made into teas, powdered mushroom extracts, or tinctures, so that people can take them in their most potent form (i.e., in an “extract” form) for their specific healing effects on the body/mind/spirit. Shitake is easy to find at most grocery stores.

Try shitake in any recipe that calls for mushrooms. Also look for teas. Available as extracts that will boost your immune system in times of need.

Other honorable mentions:

  • Coconut – is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content.
  • Liver – richest source of B12 and many other essential nutrients. Read more.
  • Salmon – rich in omega 3 fatty acids
  • Apricots – extremely high in vitamins A & C
  • Onions & garlic – rich in sulfur-containing compounds and an outstanding source of polyphenols, including the flavonoid polyphenols and are a standout source of quercetin.
  • Beans – High in fiber and protein, low in fat, and very versatile. The darker the color, the more rich in phytonutrients.

For more information on what foods belong on YOUR own personal list visit My Superfoods

10 Nutrition Tips For Busy Families

“What am I going to make for dinner?” Is a daily question. If you are like me, the answer has to fit in with a pretty hectic schedule. Between homework, sports, and picky eaters, coming up with healthy meals can be tough.

Fast food and prepackaged dinners just don’t have the nutrition that growing children–or healthy adults– need.

According to one statistic, 95% of Americans are deficient in at least one essential nutrient. The testing I do in my practice more than confirms that. This is alarming considering we have access to the best quality food in the world.  The fact is that most people are eating nutrient deficient diets–ironically, while eating too many calories. Essential vitamins and minerals are vastly under represented in the average diet, and especially in children.

Here are 10 simple steps will help you feed your family–and yourself–right!

  1. Make your own frozen meals for simple dinner prep. Use high quality ingredients and healthy recipes. Make salads and fresh vegetables to round out the meal.
  2. Try new foods. If you tend to go with old standbys, it is time to be adventurous and try new things. Variety is the spice of life, and also a good way insure you are getting a broad range of nutrients. This is one of my favorite recipe sites http://www.simplyrecipes.com/.
  3. Eat more vegetables. This is where it really falls apart for busy families. Cooking them ahead of time so that they just need to be reheated is a good way to go. Also homemade vegetable soups and salads are good meal-additions. At least 1/3 of a meal should be vegetables so be sure to have variety.
  4. Switch to healthier products. If you use white rice, switch to brown.  If tuna salad is a stand-by, try salmon salad instead (less mercury and more omega 3’s). Upgrade your breakfast cereal, use sea salt instead of refined salt, etc. There are lots of ways to up the overall quality of your food.
  5. Reduce the amount of processed foods your family eats. More whole grains, less flour products, more fresh food, less packaged, more homemade, less store bought…You will be so much healthier for it (and save money too)!
  6. Make sure superfoods are on the menu. Berries, sea vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, are easy to add to salads, soups, breakfast cereal–and even deserts.
  7. Eat whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, Bulgar wheat, barley, are easy to make once you know how. (Whole wheat bread is still a processed food with a glycemic index not much better than that of white bread.)
  8. Use organic produce whenever possible, local is best. It is good for your body and good for the local economy. Most towns have farmer’s markets. The produce there is often picked same day and tastes SOOOO much better than it’s store bought counterpart.
  9. Reduce sugar. Rather than resorting to artificial sweeteners, which are toxic, use natural, nutritious, unrefined sweeteners like agave nectar, raw honey, maple syrup, and turbinado sugar; just use them sparingly.
  10. Eat together as a family whenever possible. Take time to reconnect as a family. Health is as much about how we eat, as what we eat.

Conversations With Linda – A Testimonial…

I met Linda Partida a few years back and we started what would become an on-going conversation about life, food, healing and well-being in general. I wanted to address several issues including extreme fatigue, loss of loved ones in my life, weight issues and just overall not feeling well or myself.

One important thing I wanted her to understand about me was that I had already achieved big weight losses in my life. Always to just gain it ALL right back plus much more. I expressed to her that dieting never seemed to “stick” for me and I had tried everything; from carbs to no-carbs, high-fat, low- fat, Weight Watchers, and fasting, severe exercising –basically everything minus “the surgery.”

So together we began to explore my life and health from a big picture approach and took in all aspects of my life and health for consideration. We examined major life foundation and emotional issues and behaviors I was exhibiting.  The first and number one thing I noticed right away about Linda was that there was absolutely NO-JUDGEMENT on her part, of anything. Things were simply and non-judgmentally listened to, accepted and discussed and none of my thoughts, ideas or feelings were wrong or bad—they just were.

She literally “made room” for me to be me just as I was in the present moment and it was okay and to have and express my very deepest thoughts, sadness, hopes and confessions about my life, body, health and actions.

The other thing I relaxed into with Linda was that there was no sense of urgency on her part, although my situation needed change and we both wanted that for me it was understood that this was a process and we were going to give me the room to do whatever I needed or it took to get me there the RIGHT way. Not trying to “fix” me with pills, pushed upon programs or dieting with results that would not last long term.

It’s an interesting exercise to try and paint a picture of our accumulated work together because it’s been a “road” to say the least. Our goal has been to literally SHIFT my internal motivations and drives in my life vs. putting me on a program or diet of sorts. It has taken a combination of modalities and an accumulation of deep and real conversations and sessions together to achieve this goal.

Having said that, the mere fact that I’ve personally “shifted” mentally to a new place where I actually desire to examine and self-correct my eating habits and portions and my desire to exercise IS the actual result of our work itself.

The change I feel inside of me is REAL and PERMANENT not something any other program can say. The shift toward taking care of me has come in waves and quite surprisingly. One in the form of a personal desire to simply do what I need, like getting myself to the gym and eating better quality of foods, actually WANTING to make better choices for me and being interested in finding out what those are.

It’s so much easier to opt for what my body needs when there is no longer an obsessive drive to overeat or binge on inappropriate foods.

Back when we started working together Linda had once said, “what if you could just simply make a different choice for yourself?” At the time I thought she was crazy…why would I do that?  I was at that point still very controlled by my cravings and desire for comfort from food. I remember replying, “Well that will never happen – it’s not who I am!” Now I can see and feel inside of me what she meant. That’s how I know I’ve changed. I actually want and desire to make the different choices now for my life and I am more in control of my mental decisions around those choices.

Linda also said to me, “I wonder what it would feel like if one could have the effects of weight-loss surgery without actually having the surgery…” We entered into a discussion around what that would be like, feel like, what the internal conversations with oneself would look like. These questions and many others like them are how we’ve made a mental adjustment around life behavior and actually changed habits.

I started to think lately…if I am in control of my behavior and of my mind then why couldn’t I be in control of my decisions around how much, what and how often I eat, live and feel? Why then couldn’t I also master my desires for what I eat, when I eat, how I live my life? This is a breakthrough to be sure.

This has been again, a process, using various modalities and with many incantations along the way.

Each moment of shift has certainly had a new level of change in my life but as of late I’ve seen a more final result and success in terms of my behavior. I’ve gotten to know a new relationship with self, emotions and food. I’ve been experimenting with hunger and fullness in general. I’ve been re-introduced to my own hunger and desire for food and more importantly at each moment why I am eating or more importantly not eating.

Again, for me, the weight-loss is secondary to creating a lasting change inside of me. Anyone can lose weight. This we know. But to keep it off, change a relationship with food for life and uncover one’s self-love and truly wanting to care for ourselves is a monumental internal shift to say the least!

Many thanks to you Linda!

Healthy Cooking Tips And Tricks For Busy Families

As summer draws to near to a close, my thoughts turn toward getting my kids ready for the new school year. I love the free flow of summer, always eager for the break in routine that summer brings. By the end of summer I am also just as ready for the return to routine and structure.

As the mother of two boys, autumn also brings on a shortage of discretionary time. Between the pressures of sports, homework, quality time, and bedtime, keeping up with healthy meals can be a challenge. I know first hand what a struggle it is to put (a healthy) dinner on the table night after night. The temptation to do quick-and-not-so-healthy can be hard to resist.

Here are some suggestions, tips and tricks that will help you make the most of your time in the kitchen, save you money, and keep your family at the peak of health.

Suggestion #1 — Start the season off with a clean pantry

Take everything out –and I mean EVERYTHING and clean the space. Paint it, re paper it, or whatever. Make the space look attractive and appealing. Be selective when putting things back. Toss anything that is expired or you would not want to eat. Get rid of items that undermine healthy habits. Stock the shelves with things like beans, tomatoes, whole grains, and canned fish like tuna, salmon, or sardines. Stock the freezer with chicken, ground beef/turkey/buffalo, frozen vegetables and home made soups.

Suggestion #2 — Make your own frozen entrees to freeze for later

You can do this by setting aside a couple of hours one day a week, once a month, or by simply making enough extra to get another meal out of it. Be sure to choose recipes that will freeze well like soups, stews, lasagna, and cooked grains too. (See my recipe for gluten free hi protein lasagna)

Tip #1 — Do some meal planning at the beginning of each week

It does not have to be fancy, just some notes of what is for dinner the different nights. Each morning refer to the list and be sure you have everything you need, or need to defrost.

Trick #1 — How to defrost something in a hurry

The best way is NOT in the microwave. It diminishes the taste and texture, not to mention the healthfulness of your food.

The best way to defrost rice or other whole grains is to put them in a strainer and run them under warm water. It only takes a minute.  For other things fill a large bowl with very warm water. If the item you are defrosting is watertight, submerge it weighted down with a glass jar filled with hot water. If it is watertight, put it in a zip lock with all the air pushed out or in an empty plastic produce bag with the open end above the level of the water. Submerging it will push the air out. Change the water as it cools down. For best results, defrost meat completely before cooking.

 

I wish you a happy, healthy, and stress free back-to-school season—whether you have school aged kids of not!

 

 

Overcoming Food Allergies –My Personal Experience

I recently had the ALCAT Food Intolerance test done and the result was mind blowing. I discovered that perfectly healthy foods, that I thought of as “safe”, were responsible for many of the symptoms I had been experiencing like chronic fatigue, weight gain, skin problems, and trouble concentrating.

Over the last 2 years I had become more tired than usual. It happened gradually so there was no one day that I felt like everything changed or even particularly took notice. Looking back to 2 years ago I see that a lot had changed. I used to workout regularly and enjoy it. Since then I have had to make myself go and it was always a drag. As a result of all of this I rarely did it and gained weight. I used to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, not sleep for 8 hours or more and wake up feeling tired and hung-over –even though I don’t drink. Even the healthiest of meals left me feeling lethargic, unfocused and sometimes even dizzy. I don’t l know why it took me so long to notice, or to think of getting retested for Food Intolerance (a.k.a. food allergies), but it did.

The foods I have eliminated over the past month since getting the results of the test read like most peoples’ “healthy foods” list. They include: apples, onions, garlic, ginger, eggs, lamb, pepper, lemon, and turkey, and more –I won’t list them all.

I had this test done 25 years ago and it dramatically changed my life. I had been dragging around, feeling totally exhausted for more than 2 years before I was tested. It followed a bout of Mononucleosis, which had lasted for an entire year before being diagnosed. I had gone to doctor after doctor looking for answers as to why at the age of 20 all I wanted to do was sleep. The best any of them could do was to tell me I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. All that meant was that I was tired all the time and they couldn’t figure out why. My mom finally took me to a Holistic doctor in the city, who my uncle, a doctor, called a quack.

Among the many tests he did, was the ALCAT Food Intolerance test. This is a blood test that looks at the immune response of live blood cells to different antigens. The result was that I was “allergic” to things I was eating every day. They included: corn, tomato, potato, bakers yeast, and shrimp. I stopped eating them immediately, and within 1 week was feeling dramatically better. After 6 months I had lost 20 lbs and was back to my energetic old self. I was also able to start putting those foods back into my diet on a rotational basis (not more than once every 4th day). Keeping to that rotation I was able to enjoy all of those foods and feel fine.

So, this “quack” cured me in 1 week where all the different doctors had failed. The cure was giving me the vital piece of information I was lacking; that there were a few foods I was better off not eating. It was that simple.

And now, one month after my re-test, since removing the newly discovered offenders from my diet, I feel significantly better. My energy is coming back and I have lost 5lbs already. I don’t have the new regimen completely down to a science yet, but it gets easier every day. I have been here before and I know the benefits of abstinence strongly outweigh the inconvenience of avoiding foods I enjoy.

I should note too that the foods that were troublesome for me 25 years ago no longer showed up as being problematic. I am sure if I had been retested earlier they would have come up as “safe”. This is because our bodies change throughout our lifetimes. We can become over sensitized to things with which we are in constant contact. Frequently it is a bout of illness or extreme stress that precipitates food intolerance.  Additionally certain cosmetics, sucralose (Splenda), and amalgam filling have an effect on the mechanism behind it. Continual exposure to problematic foods does not give the body a chance to break the inflammatory cycle and heal.