originally published in July 2010 Natural Awakenings Magazine
No single food or supplement can keep us from aging or prevent all illness. The wisest approach is to consistently build and maintain health with a balanced diet of high quality lean protein, lots of veggies, some fruits, beans, legumes, and healthy fats. Add in plenty of good quality water, eight hours of sound sleep and the right kinds of exercise, and you’ve got the foundations of excellent health over the long haul.
While no one food is going to light up the sky all on its own, these five are pretty stellar.
In the best-selling book, Born To Run, author Christopher McDougall reveals secrets of super-athletes who run 50-100 miles for pleasure into old age. What fuels them? Chia seeds, which they use for endurance and energy. They mix their chia with water and lime for a gel-like drink, but chia can be added to protein shakes and smoothies, on yogurt, cereal, salads or vegetables, and as a pudding (see recipe, below). What makes chia a superfood? Chia is nutrient-dense powerhouse, rich in Omega 3, calcium and other minerals, soluble and insoluble fiber, and protein.
Berries are high in anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, high in fiber, and have a low glycemic index so they have minimal impact on blood sugar. Recent research shows they are great brain food. And best of all, nothing matches their scrumptious taste. Berry season is brief, so avail yourself of these healthy little treats while you can. (Frozen berries are a good option year round.) Whenever possible, choose organic berries, as berries’ soft skins increase the rate of pesticide absorption. Try serving with a little coconut milk and chopped walnuts (or chia seeds!), in smoothies, or all by their delectable selves.
Dark Leafy Greens
Vitamin D is in the news a lot lately, and many people are taking it as a supplement. But did you know that you need Vitamin K with it? And where do you get Vitamin K? From dark leafy greens. Vitamin K supports strong bones and teeth by helping transport calcium. Without it, calcium can cause problems in arteries and soft tissue. But that’s only one reason to heap bok choy, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli raab, collards and mustard greens on your plate. They are alkalinizing, which makes us more resistant to disease; they are a great source of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron; and they fill us up with few calories, low carbohydrates and no fat, making them ideal for weight management. Steam or saute with olive or walnut oil, add some fresh herbs, and dig in.
Not all whey powders are equal. Choose minimally processed, hormone-free, whey produced with low temperatures to maintain the benefits of raw milk, including immunogloblulins and lactoferrin, which support the immune system, and cysteine, which is a precursor of glutathione, a nutrient that helps protects from effects of aging, illness, infection, trauma and more, but is difficult to absorb directly. Whey from grass-fed cows also contains a healthy balance of essential fatty acids.
Chlorella has the highest chlorophyll content of all plants, and is about 60% high quality protein, including all eight essential amino acids, making it extremely valuable for vegetarians and others who limit animal products in their diets. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, including E, beta-carotene and B12. It is a powerful detox support, yet gentle enough for nursing and pregnant moms. Chlorella absorbs toxins from the intestines and colon, and is often used to reduce heavy metals. Make sure the chlorella you use is tested to be free of mercury, and has no additives or preservatives.
For much more on chlorella, read Dr Mercola’s article
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
3 Tablespoons sweetener: xylitol, agave, or maple syrup
1 Tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in jar or bowl with secure cover. Cover, shake, and refrigerate overnight.
Think your kids won’t eat their greens? Try these.
Chop or tear kale into 2 inch bits and dry thoroughly. This is essential.
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together 1-2 T olive oil, 1/2 t sea salt and other spices if you wish (cayenne, paprika, garlic, curry, etc). Sprinkle on the dry kale and work into the leaves with your hands.
Arrange on a cookie tray. Cook for about 12 minutes, until leaves are just crisp and still green.