January 4, 2012

Natural Foodie:
Go ahead, make a change

We asked four experts, and it was unanimous. The key to a healthier you in the new year can pretty much be summed up in two words: 'Lifestyle changes.’

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

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Mushrooms such as maitake have a long history of use in non-Western medical traditions.

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Dow said it’s better to turn to third-party nutrition guides rather than rely on advertising hype from food manufacturers. These navigation guides include the ANDI score used by Whole Foods Market, the Nutrition IQ system used by Shaw’s and the Guiding Stars program used by Hannaford. Dow is the expert chef for the Guiding Stars program.

In the spirit of making permanent diet changes in the new year, we asked these four nutrition experts which foods we should add to our kitchens and which ones we should avoid or eat in much smaller quantities. The resulting lists contain both well-known and unusual ingredients ready to supercharge your health in 2012.

EAT MORE . . .

ALGAE: An ancient food, algae can be harvested from both the oceans and freshwater lakes. Common types of this tiny, nutrient-dense food include spirulina and chlorella, and they can be purchased in powder or capsule form.

“These foods help to deal with radiation by removing toxins from the body,” Giglio said. “They’re high in vitamins A, B, K, iron, and are great blood builders. They’re also a complete protein.”

Silverman said, “Because the topsoil is so depleted in our country, we need a way to get minerals, and algae is a whole food source of micronutrients.”

Add algae to smoothies, salad dressings and dips.

BEANS: One of the earliest plants cultivated by humans, beans can be found in almost endless varieties, including black, kidney, pinto, Jacob’s cattle, yellow eye, lentil and black-eyed peas. Beans can be harvested early and eaten fresh as green beans or dried for storage and cooked before eating.

Beans contain high levels of fiber and protein. While they’re low in calories, they’re packed with the complex carbohydrates our bodies need for fuel.

“Beans are equal to meat, and they’re  more economical,” Wolff said. “Because they’re low in fat, they’re also low in toxins. The carbohydrate they do have will keep your blood sugar even for a longer amount of time.”

Use beans in soups, salads, casseroles, burritos, stir fries or as purees and dips such as hummus. Baked beans are the traditional Maine way to eat this superfood.

BROWN RICE, QUINOA AND OTHER WHOLE GRAINS: High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, cereal grains provide a solid foundation for any diet, and are best eaten in their whole state.
True whole grains retain their intact kernels, which can be ground to make flour, losing some nutrients in the milling process.

“Gluten-free is not going away,” Dow said. “So familiarize yourself with non-wheat grains. For instance, quinoa tastes good, it looks cool, and it feels awesome in your mouth.”

“Eating whole grains helps even out your blood sugar,” Silverman said. “They contain lots of B vitamins, and they’re supposed to help with depression.”

“Because people don’t have whole grains in their diets, they’re craving simple carbs,” Wolff said.

Also try oat groats, millet, amaranth, hulled barley or spelt berries. Quinoa and amaranth require the least amount of cooking.

COCONUT OIL (UNREFINED): Maligned for years because of its high saturated fat content, recent research is revealing the health benefits of coconut and its unrefined oil, which is high in beneficial lauric acid. Coconut oil can aid digestion and boost immunity.

“It’s an amazing food with so many health benefits to it,” Giglio said. “It’s antiviral and antimicrobial. Coconut oil boosts the metabolism, which will help you lose weight.”

Use coconut oil as a replacement for butter or margarine in baking. Because it is a stable oil, it is ideal for high-heat cooking.

KALE AND OTHER DARK LEAFY GREENS

Considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods, kale, like all dark leafy greens, is an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. A member of the cabbage family, it is eaten both raw and cooked.

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