I hope some of you have tried, and are enjoying, some of the foods discussed in last week’s column to help you get back on track with your New Year’s Resolutions. We explored the potential enjoyment and health benefits of: vegetables (collard greens), berries (frozen blueberries), nuts (crispy almonds) and cultured foods (yogurt/kefir/kraut).
Keep in mind that it is not only the foods we choose, but also the source of these foods that is critical. This is especially relevant when we shop for fish, eggs and meat, which are important sources of balanced nutrition.
Most of the eggs we eat are from chickens confined in horrible conditions. These chickens are kept in crowded cages, and the feed they receive is less than nutritious. I suggest buying eggs from one of the many local farms, where you can actually see the chickens out in the yard and grass, poking around in the ground for insects, weeds and grass; even a diet supplemented by nutritious local feed, or from the market labeled Organic and Free Range/Pasture Raised.
As Jonny Bowden writes in “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” “Eggs consistently score highest in the quality of protein, soundly beating milk, beef, whey and soy.” While the whites contain all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, the yolks are rich in a phospholipid called phosphatidylcholine (aka lecithin), which supports fat and cholesterol digestion.
Choline also helps the body produce betaine, which helps control the level of homocysteine, an unhealthy amino acid that can damage the artery walls leading to cardiovascular disease. Try a couple of eggs poached with greens and served over a dollop of local goat chevre, and enjoy! As with eggs, we need to be discerning when choosing or meat sources.
Chickens and beef cattle that graze on grass their whole lives bring nutrition to our table in levels (especially healthy Omega-3 fats) not closely matched by the (only) grain/fattened/fed factory farmed varieties available in most supermarkets.
The source of the fish in our diets is critically important, especially where salmon is concerned. We are fortunate in the Northwest to have wild caught salmon available. This is not the same food as farmed salmon, which actually is a source of fats that can cause inflammation in our bodies.
Wild caught salmon is rich in healthy anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fats and comes by its wonderful pink color naturally from the krill and shrimp they eat. The pigment is from an antioxidant called astaxanthin, which has 10 times the antioxidant activity of beta-carotene we find in our carrots, yellow squash and other vegetables. The “salmon farmers” that produce farmed salmon use a color wheel, like one found at the paint store, to determine what color they want for their salmon product and feed them colored food.
A wonderful, nutritious gift from the sea is sea vegetables (aka seaweeds). These vegetables are nutritiously packed with abundant minerals and trace minerals such as iodine, calcium, and iron. Most of us, even if we eat organic foods are not getting all of the minerals we need from our foods.
Without proper care, our soils easily get depleted of minerals, and if it is not in the soil it will not be in the food! A way to ensure we get the minerals we need is to include some sea vegetables in our diets. A common way to add these nutritious gems is to add (and you can “roll your own”) sushi to your diet. If you are squeamish about eating raw fish, try a vegetarian version; my favorite is made with rice, cucumber, spinach and avocado.
To follow this virtual meal of eggs, poultry, meat and sea vegetables, I would like to offer chocolate as a “just” dessert. Try the recipes included a couple of columns ago. Research has shown us that there are some important antioxidants in quality cocoa, an important one being resveratrol which is also found in berries, grapes and peanuts.
Studies show that resveratrol can increase the health and lifespan of human cells, which could have a positive effect on our health and longevity. It is important to find chocolate products that are certified organic and produced using “Fair Trade” methods.
The benefits of “organic” chocolate are obvious; no herbicide or pesticide residue included. The Fair Trade (look for the stamp) certification lets you know that the farmer was fairly compensated for the cacao beans they grew and harvested.
Break off a square of this excellent quality dark-chocolate, put it in your mouth enjoy the flavors and textures as it melts knowing you are enjoying this treat and moving towards optimum health. Tune in next week as we wrap up this Resolution Reset series. Salud!
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please “like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/.