Originally published in The Times Herald Record
Would you like to know a secret to better health? To losing and maintaining weight? To diminishing symptoms of illness and aging?
The secret is your food. No medications, no supplements, no exercise plan can compensate if you’re not eating well.
With almost 20 years of clinical practice, I depend more and more on nutrition, rather than supplements, to help people lose weight, address symptoms and get healthy. After all, supplements are only guesses at what nutrients in foods might be helpful.
You’re probably heard the notion that multivitamins are a good “insurance policy” and everyone should take them. I don’t think so. Synthesizing all those vitamins and minerals into one tiny pill means your body is not likely to recognize or utilize any of them. Mostly you end up with a more expensive toilet flush.
Instead, invest in some of these delicious and nutrition-packed superfoods.
Raw organic cacao
Cacao is the source of everything chocolate, but there’s a big nutritional difference between raw organic cacao and a typical candy bar. If you want chocolate that’s healthy, this is what you want. It is mineral-rich and has more antioxidants than green tea, blueberries or red wine.
Traditionally used to increase strength and energy, maca is gaining a reputation — backed by research — for increasing libido, balancing hormones and increasing fertility in both men and women. Add maca powder to your protein shake, or mix into baking. It pairs well with cocoa.
Despite the hype, acai is not a weight-loss solution, but it is incredibly rich in phytonutrients. Used traditionally both as medicine and as an energy food, it has antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber. Add to yogurt or cereal, or mix it in smoothies.
Chia is a Mayan word for strength. These versatile seeds have been a favorite of mine for years. They pack more protein, omega-3, calcium, iron and fiber per spoonful than just about any other food, and chia’s nutrients are easily digested and absorbed. Slightly nutty in flavor, chia can be mixed with drinks or sprinkled on food.
You don’t have to grow your own or buy expensive “shots” of this cleansing, alkalinizing, energizing green drink. Try freeze-dried powder in drinks, dressings or sauces (think pesto). By the way, wheat grass is gluten-free.
Coconut comes from the same family as acai and dates. Don’t avoid it because of the fat — It’s healthy fat that can help boost metabolism, is good for the nervous system (including your brain) and may be protective of the thyroid. It is a source of monolaurin, which is potent immune support. It’s one of the healthiest oils for cooking, more stable than olive oil, and works well as a butter replacement in baking and on foods. Try it on popcorn, toast or veggies.
Power Hot Chocolate
This treat is one of my all-time favorites. Heat 1 cup coconut milk with sweetener (I prefer xylitol or pure stevia). Add a tablespoon of raw cacao, a tablespoon of chia seeds, a teaspoon of maca powder. Whisk. Remove from heat before it reaches boiling. Add vanilla or other flavor if desired.
Blend 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 2 tablespoons white chia seeds, 1 tablespoon maca powder, 1 tablespoon acai powder with 1 cup of berries.
Optional: protein powder such as whey, hemp, pea or rice; xylitol or stevia to sweeten; additional fruit like banana, mango or cherries; ice/water to taste.
Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Use this recipe for strawberries or other fruits or nuts.
Combine 1/3 cup raw cacao powder with 1/4 cup coconut oil. Add maple syrup, agave or stevia (for no blood sugar impact) to taste. Blend, adjusting ingredients if necessary to desired consistency. Dip. Then, allow treats to set in fridge.